The Drinks Tray: Genepì

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In all the vast literature of food and drink, the link between flavour and geography is so usually obvious as to go all but unspoken.

Indeed, when is comes to spirits in particular, we need hardly give this profoundly satisfying relationship a thought. It seems obvious and agreeably inevitable that a day’s stalking in the Highlands should be sprinkled with whisky; that a peg on the edge of a frozen English woodland should be made bearable with sloe gin; that there’s no substitute, when sitting in a bush in South Carolina, wearing a hi-vis waistcoat and huffing on a turkey-caller, for whatever bourbon is. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. (And when in Naples, it’s probably impolite to turn down some ghastly form of limoncello.)

Similarly, whether one is in shorts in summer or salopettes in winter, the Alps are ever so slightly improved by the local bracer: genepì (if one is in Italy) or génépy (if one has strayed across the border into France). Whatever the spelling, the effect is the same: fire in your belly, power in your legs and an almost dangerous degree of confidence. Great on a long walk, almost certainly suicidal on the Cresta Run.

Though the unassuming alpine flower from which it is made looks very much like chamomile and tastes not wholly dissimilar, the resultant greenish booze has the opposite effect of Peter Rabbit’s favoured bedtime brew. It’s a form of wormwood, so there’s a touch of the absinthe to it, and it grows above 2,000 metres in late July and August.

Once one has discovered its invigorating properties, making genepì oneself could hardly be easier: a litre of pure grain alcohol (vodka will do); 40 branches of genepì; 40 grams of sugar; leave it to steep for 40 days.

In fact, since it’s in such high demand and grows in such out-of-the-way places, getting one’s hands on the necessary foliage is likely to be the only stumbling block. So when one is browsing the suspicious salamis and dusty chocolates whilst looking for a souvenir towards the end of a skiing trip this spring, bear in mind that there’s very likely to be an excellent bottle-shop nearby that’ll supply with a bottle of this fine distillation of the alpine spirit instead.