Zuccherini - a spoonful of sugar helps.........

If you have been thinking of making a liqueur for Christmas and haven't got around to it you may like this idea. It  would be better to make these at least a month before consuming them, but they are pretty tasty even after a week or so.

Although I've been living in Italy for ages, I discovered "zuccherini" for the first time in the Summer. I was undecided whether or not to write  about them, as I was actually rather scandalized to learn about them and to try one.......... 

You must promise not to abuse them if you do make them. 

Italy has so many undiscovered secrets and countless ways of using any ingredient. This is a cross between a sweet, a liqueur and a herbalist's tincture.
I was offered  zuccherini in a newly opened  "osteria" (a restaurant which serves simple, local  food).  It's common to be offered a  liqueur in many restaurants at the end of a meal or even if invited to eat with friends of family. Quite often these liqueurs are home-made and are always considered "digestive".  Italians aren't really big drinkers, they just have a small glass to help digest the meal. "Amaro" means bitter in Italian  and bitter is known to aid digestion. "Amaro" liqueur  is produced by macerating herbs, roots, flowers, bark and/or citrus peels in spirits or wine  and allowing the liquid to age.

"Zuccherini" follow the same principle, but are made with 90/95° alcohol.  Layers of sugar cubes are packed in  jars with layers of the chosen herb/spice etc. and covered with alcohol.

 The following photo shows the original choice I was offered to choose from in the osteria: 
basilico(basil), cannella (cinnamon), rosa canina(wild rose),
ginipro (juniper), limone(lemon), alloro(bay) and  menta(mint).
  I chose wild rose. Which one would you choose?

So, how to you serve them?
Well, you definitely don't drink the alcohol. The alcohol needs to stay in the jar.
The waitress taught us what to do. A "zuccherino" is taken with pincers (allowing the excess alcohol to fall back into the jar)  and placed on a saucer. It is then flambéd (set on fire) and allowed to burn for about 20/30 seconds. The flame is put out by covering with a cup or glass and the cube is eaten hot and allowed to melt on the tongue.  Amazing!!
 We left the restaurant  with  sparkling eyes, scented breath and tingling mouths. 

Be careful not to burn your mouth and don't eat and drive!!!

I have just prepared some for Christmas or Hostess gifts;
Wild mint and Lime peel
Rosehip and Anise
Rose and Cinnamon

You can create any combination that your taste buds fancy.....
Here are some other ideas:
Sage and Lemon peel
Coffee bean and Vanilla pod/Orange peel
Berries (dried as too much water content will dissolve the sugar)
Chili pepper (not for the faint of heart)
Lavender/Sweet violets

 They can be topped up the next day if the level of alcohol goes down after making.  
Keep in a dark place for a month.   When they are finished, more sugar cubes can be added.
The alcohol needs to be 90% volume and the ingredients quite dry, otherwise the sugar will dissolve.
90 proof means the alcohol content is 45%, by volume.
200 proof = 100%180 proof = 90%and so on.
I use food-grade alcohol which is sold for liqueur making (190 proof - 95%volume).

Other ideas in English about zuccherini @


  1. Thank you so much to have mentioned my recipe !
    Ciao from Italy !! <3 <3 <3 Merry Christmas !!!
    Anna from http://cibovinoeparole.blogspot.it/
    i'll put you in my blogroll !!

  2. Scoprendo poi che vivi in Italia , e per giunta in Emilia Romagna come me ,ti ringrazio infinitamente per avermi citata ..!!
    Grazie ancora e come ho già scritto sopra ti inserisco nel mio blogroll ! ciao e Buon Natale !!

    1. Ciao Anna, Grazie per l'inspirazione!! Tanti Auguri!

  3. Wow! Those are beautiful.. I bet they taste heavenly!

  4. Thanks Kimberley, lovely to see you here! Make some....they are soooo good....

  5. wow..what a fun way to end a meal..i am definitely going to make some..i think coffee would be a cool one to offer people after a meal..x

  6. by the way wcd..what alcohol did you use in the ones you made? x

    1. Hello Jane :-) Here in Italy you can buy "alcool buongusto" (food-grade alcohol) at most supermarkets sold for liqueur making/preserving fruit etc. It's usually 95° proof and costs about 10/12 euros. It's actually pure, grain alcohol and also can be used as a fuel or household cleaner (ethanol) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethanol. You can't buy it in the UK, people would get into too much trouble....

    2. thanks wcd..i'm not sure it's available here either..i'll have to ask around..x

    3. Maybe you can find 90% vodka?

  7. First, Everclear & other grain spirits are available in the US. But mostly - zuccherini sound fantastic! They are completely new to me - despite decades dedicated to food & drink including a stint as a chef. I can't wait to try them.

    1. Thankyou Uncatim- it took me a while to discover them aswell! Have fun......

  8. Just FYI I used gin for 95 proof alcohol and the sugar cubes dissolved. After finding out that this didnt work I switched to Everclear which is grain alcohol which is 190 proof (95% by volume). That absolutely did the trick

    1. Dear Manny, thank you so much for giving this feedback- I'm sorry that you ruined your gin. I have updated the post and I hope too many others haven't been disappointed. I always get confused by proof and percent and that's why I wrote the details, but I messed it up anyway!!!!! Enjoy your zuccherini. What flavor did you make?

  9. I am fascinated by this as I have never heard of it. So unique! Does the flame burn off all of the alcohol or is some left behind (in your experience)?

  10. Hi Sheila, thanks for your interest.
    Well, it depends how long you allow them to burn - less time = more alcohol. If you burn them longer very little alcohol remains but the sugar caramelises (which I like). I've heard that some people eat them neat without burning (although I'm sure they burn their mouths off!!)


Thanks for your feedback. Comments are gladly accepted ;)