High Spirits

Monaco distillery

Photo : L'Orangerie

He squeezed oranges into the Monaco Spritz. Now, Philip Culazzo flavors a café Monegasque with the national tree.

It’s been three years since Philip Culazzo opened l’Orangerie, Monaco’s only distillery, making use of the Principality’s 600 bitter orange trees to extract an organic, 100% Made- in-Monaco liqueur of the same name. Today, some 10,000 bottles are produced annually.

Using only local citrus aurantium oranges, which are too bitter to eat, 15,000 tons of the fruit is processed by hand in the atelier on rue de la Turbie, just off Place d’Armes, and distilled with a small amount of sugar, water and alcohol. The 30% proof liqueur, along with Prosecco, ice and zest, now appears on cocktail menus as the Monaco Spritz.

“We don’t use any chemicals, colorings or artificial ingredients, and this policy extends to everything that we do now and for the future,” assures Culazzo, a 39-year- old Dubliner, who has been a Monaco resident for nearly a decade.

Starting a distillery project has been a much bigger learning curve than Culazzo anticipated, but he welcomes the challenge. “We’re so fortunate to have such a bounty of quality ingredients on our doorstep to produce a real taste of terroir.”

The food trader says, “I’ve been lucky to visit a lot of food producers around the world and learned the importance of quality ingredients, as well as the systems put in place to get the best product to the final customer with as little handling as possible.”

Culazzo has just returned from the China International Import Expo, where he participated as part of the Monaco Economic Board (MEB) delegate along with 12 other MEB businesses. This was at the invitation of the Chinese envoy following the first official visit of the Chinese President, Xi Jinping, to Monaco in March. “We hope to find distribution partners to bring a taste of our Monaco liqueurs to China.”

While a range of other spirits “that can age for many years to come” is under development, on National Day, November 19, Culazzo officially launched a second product: La Carruba, a liqueur based on the fruit of Monaco’s national tree. “Carob is full of polyphenols that contain antioxidants and fiber, has virtually no fat and is both gluten- and caffeine-free. You get the taste of coffee and dark chocolate without the guilt.”

Picking pods from Monaco’s 30 carob trees, as well as from neighboring caroubiers, La Carruba can be a digestif, mixed as a cocktail or sipped like an Irish coffee. “We call it a café Monegasque.”