Salvatore Calabrese’s unique new liqueur comes to UK

Salvatore Calabrese Acqua Bianca

A unique new liqueur balancing peppermint with rose and citrus has been introduced in the UK by its creator, leading bartender Salvatore Calabrese. 

He developed Acqua Bianca in partnership with 325-year-old Dutch spirit and liqueur producer De Kuyper Royal Distillers and its master blenders, drawing on recipe ideas in a book from the late 19th century. 

However, it was research further back to the 18th century that inspired him to use one of the key ingredients in the liqueur: ambergris. This precious substance is produced in the digestive tracts of whales but has been used for centuries by perfumers as a fixative to make the aroma of fragrances to last longer. 

“I started to notice that some spirits and liqueurs were made with ambergris,” he explains, launching the new liqueur at his current home, The Donovan Bar at Brown’s Hotel in London. “The finest perfumes in the world start with ambergris. What we miss in liqueurs, that we always encounter with fine spirits and fine wine, is aroma. The aroma is one of the very first sensations that sparks your mind. It brings flavour and understanding of what you are going to encounter. I wanted to bring you one of the most aromatic liqueurs in the world.”

The aroma of Acqua Bianca is led by peppermint but balanced with floral and citrusy notes, which is reflected in its taste profile. The liqueur is made with lemons from Salvatore’s native Amalfi Coast in Italy and bergamot from Calabria, where his family comes from, sitting alongside the more bitter citrus flavour of cidron lemon. The floral notes come from the use of use. These all-natural ingredients are bound together by the essence of ambergris which adds intensity and longer-lasting fragrance.

At 24% ABV, the liqueur is clear and does not have the sweet sticky aftertaste of some other liqueurs. This makes it versatile for all kinds of cocktails, Salvatore says. “You will find that lots of the time, white liqueur stays with white spirits, dark liqueur goes straightaway with the dark spirits. Acqua Bianca could truly be at the centre stage of any cocktail.”

This was demonstrated at the UK launch at The Donovan Bar with a variety of different drinks. It can be combined with Italian aperitif Italicus Rosolio Di Bergamotto, pink grapefruit juice and prosecco over ice for the refreshing Spritzer Fresco, or straight up with calvados and Amaro Montenegro in the rich Salvamento. Salvatore is also a fan of the Stinger, mixing Acqua Bianca with a VSOP cognac. See below for a few cocktail recipes. It can also be enjoyed neat and chilled.

“I wanted to make a very unique liqueur, something totally different from anything you will find today,” Salvatore adds. “Liqueur for me is the paintbrush of any work of art. Liqueur is always for me one of the most exciting parts of any creation that I make.”

Acqua Bianca is the latest new liqueur to be developed by De Kuyper with leading bartenders. Last year, it launched Muyu liqueurs with Monica Berg, Simone Caporale and Alex Kratena. It has also created Dutch Cacao liqueur in collaboration with Joerg Meyer in Germany, with plans to bring this to the UK in the future. Acqua Bianca is part of the premium De Kuyper portfolio distributed in the UK through Cellar Trends alongside its other historic liqueur brands Cherry Heering and Mandarine Napoléon.

Mark de Witte, CEO of De Kuyper Royal Distillers, explains working with Salvatore is part of the company’s mission to “Own the Cocktail” by increasing both quality and opportunities. “We try to partner with the best in the industry because we do think we have great products and great marketing but, in the end, the really great cocktails are made by the best bartenders. The co-creation of liqueurs with leading bartenders is a key pillar of our global strategy and an important part of how we want to innovate and lead and premiumise the liqueur category.”

Spritzer Fresco
25ml Acqua Bianca
15ml Italicus Rosolio Di Bergamotto
15ml Pink grapefruit juice
Pour Acqua Bianca, Italicus and juice into a large wine glass filled with ice and top up with prosecco. Stir and garnish with a twist of lemon.

Sal’s Stinger
40ml VSOP cognac
20ml Acqua Bianca
Pour all ingredients in a mixing glass filled with ice. Stir and strain into a chilled coupe glass.

Acqua Bianca Frappé
50ml Acqua Bianca
Crushed ice
Pour Acqua Bianca into a balloon glass or an Old Fashioned glass and fill with crushed ice.

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