Calisaya Redux

Calisaya Redux: re-tasting the Tuscan traditional liqueur made in Oregon
Calisaya Liqueur
Hoke Harden

When Calisaya Liqueur was first introduced to the Oregon market, it made a tremendous impact.  An authentic Tuscan-styled liqueur with a characteristic bitter tang from natural cinchona bark (the same Peruvian bark that was used to make quinine for treating malaria and other tropical diseases and grew so widespread that it became a favored flavor in vermouths and bitter aperitivi and digestivi in Europe), made in artisanal batches in the heart of western Oregon, the taste profile was unique, and the quality level astounding.

Since the first release, Calisaya has become a staple on the backbar and in some engaging cocktails in the upscale lounges.

So it was time to renew acquaintance with this delicious liqueur.  At the recently concluded Oregon Spirits Trade Show, which showcased a range of some of Oregon’s finest craft distiller’s offerings, the Calisaya beckoned.

Good news: Calisaya is still the brilliant and compelling aperitif/digestif as when it first was created.  The style may have lightened just a bit on the bitters, but only slightly---Americans aren’t (yet) as generally fond of bitter drinks as the Europeans---and the rich, aromatic orange essence has intensified in balance.

The owner/creator, Andrea Loreto, reported that Calisaya had changed its base of operations from Cottage Grove to Eugene, but that nothing else had changed.  It’s still made by hand in small batches with the intense personal involvement of the man who created the liqueur to honor his ancestry and heritage---and so he’d have plenty of his family’s Tuscan warmth in his own house. The carefully selected oranges are still used (primarily for the pungent oil in their thick skins), as is the Peruvian Cinchona Bark for its distinctive bitterness.  And there is still an abbondanza of spicy delights, including cinnamon, cardamom-grapefruit, vanilla-oak and other more elusive teases of floral-fruit that add to the complex palate.

Calisaya remains a true Tuscan tradition that is a unique product of Oregon, and the quality remains unparalleled. If you haven’t tried it yet, you should do so.  It is currently available in the OLCC liquor stores as well as select bars and lounges throughout Oregon.


Managing Editor:  Oregon Spirits Digest (Winter 2011)

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