Elisir Novasalus: More Horrible/Amazing Than Malört?

By Melissa McEwen in Food on Jun 29, 2015 7:50PM

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(Photo by Nick Hruza)
Every year, new imports from Europe make their way to Chicago and this year we get Elisir Novasalus, a wine-based Amaro made by Cappelletti from alpine plants and a secret Sicilian pine tree sap. The result can be charitably described as complex, though maybe a better word is "brutal." While Malört is often described as tasting like tar, Novasalus tastes far more like tar and looks like it too.

As far as I know there is nothing like it on the market. I took it to a party full of normal innocent Chicagoans and described it as a "new amaro on the market." Their faces contorted in horror as they took a sip. Then I took it to an LTHforum-based BBQ and to the bar at Charlatan, where people loved it. Not really because it tastes good, but because it tastes incredible. Like dragging your tongue through an ancient pine forest. It's smoky and meaty, not sweet and herbal like most of the amari on the US market. Most the ingredients are secret, but include bitter aloe, gentian, dandelion and burdock. It has all the makings of a cult bitter like Malört or Underberg.

Right now it's only on one menu we know of- Sink | Swim, where it's in Pellet Gun #2, a riff on their original Pellet Gun at Scofflaw made with CH Distillery's Aquavit, Novasalus, lemon, strawberry soda, Peychaud’s Bitters and cucumber. Beverage director Danny Shapiro told me he gets beverage reps bringing him new stuff all the time, but rarely do they capture his imagination like Novasalus, which he describes as "more bitter, more extreme, yet not one dimensional." The original Pellet Gun #2 had .25 ounces of Novasalus, but even though they warned diners it was a bitter drink, people still sent it back. So they put in half that and the result has some of the complexity without being overwhelming to most consumers.

For the small minority of crazy people (bartenders, spirits writers, masochists), Cappelletti earnestly recommends "For the thirsty, when the heat oppresses and seems invincible, a mixture of half mineral/natural water and half Elisir Novasalus" (badly translated from Italian).

You can pick up a bottle of Elisir Novasalus at Vas Foremost…if you dare. Have you tried it yet? What do you think?