The Tasting Panel magazine

November 2014

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Page 129 of 136

november 2014  /  the tasting panel  /  129 ? WHAT'S LEFT TO SAY ABOUT VODKA F rank Guerrera's Punzoné Vodka launched only a couple of years ago in 2012—but the idea was born out of a thousand family meals, where the former finance guru liked to gather his near and dear. "I'm Italian. I love to cook and I love to entertain," says the Brooklyn-born, Staten Island–based Guerrera. "My house has an open door and the family always comes—that's how Punzoné was born." Or, to be more specific, it came from his irresistible recipe for punch, which is the loose translation of "Punzoné" in his parents' Sicilian dialect. The recipe—a blend of vodka, a bit of Guerrera's own homemade wine and fresh blood orange juice—became so in demand, he began bottling it for friends and family. "People loved it because it wasn't too strong, like a straight vodka cocktail, but not too sugary-sweet, like a sangria," he says. The blend became the inspiration for Punzoné—an homage to the noble ingredients that are Guerrera's passion. "Ingredients are everything," he emphatically explains. "That's what rises to the top. If you're making sauce with fresh basil, fresh garlic and good tomatoes, you'll have the best plate of pasta ever. But if you use dried basil and canned sauce, well . . . ." The theory translated well to his two-year-old Punzoné trifecta: a straight vodka ("It's very Italian—it has a bold, clean flavor, but it's soft going down"), the blood orange Originale ("the original punch") and his refreshing Lemoncino, which Guerrera insists is "not to be confused with limoncello!" The bottles range from $34.99 to $39.99 SRP. The portfolio came together via treks he took to Italy to find the best suppliers for his fledgling products, each of which is distilled and blended in Piedmont. At the base of all three is organically farmed Italian wheat, distilled five times in a continuous, fractional five-column still and cut with Alpine water to its final 80 proof. The 34 proof, which most closely represents that fateful family punch, is a blend of the vodka with organic Calabrian blood oranges and organic Sangiovese- based wine from Abruzzi. And the Lemoncino, also an easy- going 34 proof, blends Chardonnay from Abruzzi with organic Sicilian lemons. "You get the characteristics of a traditional limon- cello, but without being syrupy or overly sweet." Right now, Guerrera's biggest markets are New York and New Jersey, where bartenders find that the purest expression of a Punzoné-based cocktail can simply be found on the rocks with a twist, or even a shaken blend of the three together. But with demand stretching from the Midwest to California, and interest from Asian and South American markets as well, Punzoné's punch may well soon be felt 'round the globe. "What you put in is what you get out," Guerrera says. "Quality rises." The 1–2–3 Punch, PUNZONE VODKA RISES TO THE TOP WITH QUALITY INGREDIENTS by Amy Zavatto Italian Style ´

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