Strega: The Herbal 'Witch' Liqueur

Liquore Strega
Photo Courtesy: Liquore Strega

The 'witches liqueur,' Strega is an old herbal liqueur from Italy that has a unique flavor and a distinctive yellow color. As with many digestif liqueurs, the recipe is a secret but we do know a few ingredients and chief among those are saffron, mint, and juniper berries.

Strega is a very popular liqueur that can be enjoyed on its own or in a variety of cocktails. It is certainly a distilled spirit that every bartender and cocktail connoisseur should be aware of and taste at some point.

Strega Liqueur

Strega (Liquore Strega) is an Italian liqueur that has been produced in Benevento, Italy since 1860. It is often compared to Yellow Chartreuse in both look and taste. You will find the herbal flavor of Strega to be softer and slightly sweeter.

The liqueur's proprietary recipe is a mix of 70 herbs and spices which include Ceylon cinnamon, Florentine iris, Italian Apennine juniper, Samnite mint, fennel, and saffron. Saffron is the key to Strega's signature yellow color and it shares the spotlight with mint and juniper as the most pronounced flavors within the herbal mixture.

Strega is aged in ash barrels to allow the various flavors and aromas to blend together.

Strega Details

  • Italian herbal digestif liqueur produced by Strega Alberti of Rome, Italy.
  • 40% alcohol by volume (80 proof)
  • Retails for around $35/750ml bottle

More Strega Liqueurs

Strega Alberti also produces other liqueurs. Among those are two that utilize the original Strega formula as a base:

  • Strega Riserva - This special bottling is Strega liqueur with a little more time in the barrel. The extra aging significantly deepens the flavor while giving it a pleasant softness. 40% ABV (80 proof), around $50
  • Strega Cream - Fresh milk is combined with Strega to lighten the flavor and create a smoother taste. 17% ABV (34 proof), around $20

Interesting Strega Facts

Strega is the Italian word for 'witch' and the liqueur is sometimes referred to as the witches liqueur. The name is appropriate because the town of Benevento where it is made has long been considered City of Witches. Folklore says that it has been a gathering place for the witches of the world. Throughout the town, one can find many strega products including candy that uses the liqueur.

The liqueur often makes an appearance in pop culture. It is frequently the drink of choice for Italian characters in movies, TV, and literature.

Enjoy Strega in Cocktails

Strega is considered a digestif to be imbibed after a meal and is commonly served straight or on the rocks. It can also be used in a variety of cocktails. Be sure to try Strega with both coffee and lemonade (not in the same drink) as these are two of the best pairings for this liqueur. 

A cocktail named Macbeth No. 2 is another recipe you should try. It simply shakes 1 ounce of Strega with 1 1/2 ounces Drambuie and is strained into a cocktail glass. It's fabulous in its simplicity.

Strega can also be used as a substitute for Yellow Chartreuse in cocktails, though there is a significant difference in taste. This is especially apparent in the mint aspect.

If you would like, try Strega over ice cream or a bowl of fruit. It's a fabulous syrup base and can be paired with a variety of foods and served over or in baked goods.