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Sicilian Kiss

Posted by Suzanne on 13 Feb 2015


Saint Valentine (San Valentino), Sicilian poet Giacomo da Lentini, Lampedusa’s classic, The Leopard, and a cocktail called Sicilian Kiss all underscore love. And as the feast day of Saint Valentine, one of the world’s more known saints approaches love is to be considered.

I am intrigued as to who Saint Valentine was and must admit that a story of love, in all its melodrama, does resonate a little particularly when it involves a Sicilian literary classic, a Sicilian sonneteer and a cocktail with a name so daring as, Sicilian Kiss.


Saint Valentine:

Saint Valentine was not Sicilian. It is thought that he was a simple Roman priest martyred in the 3rd century on the Flaminian Way during the reign of outrageous Claudius or that maybe he was a bishop from Terni martyred in ancient Rome.

According to David Hugh Farmer’s witty read, Oxford Dictionary of Saints they are one of the same. And, he notes Valentine seems to have “no connection with lovers or courting couples,” let alone cards and chocolates.

And yet he says, some see “the custom of choosing a partner on Saint Valentine’s day as the survival of elements of the Roman Lupercalia festival, which took place in the middle of February.” It was a festival where young men balloted for the names of young women and it would have been widely celebrated in Sicily, in the empire’s south.

Maybe the reason for Saint Valentine’s patronage is, as Farmer says, simply because February the 14th is said to be the day that birds pair. And this, he states, is a belief as old as Chaucer himself.

No matter what, 'Claudius’s martyr' was thought to be gentle and carried out many simple deeds of love and maybe, along with passionate love in a Sicilian literary classic, a Sicilian love sonnet and a cocktail, the romantic in us all can be stirred.


A Sicilian Poet and sonneteer, Giacomo da Lentini:

The 13th century Sicilian poet and notary, Giacomo da Lentini - praised by Dante and the head of the Sicilian School of Court Poetry during the glorious reign of Frederick II, Emperor of the West and King of Sicily - is credited with creating the sonnet, that wonderful poetic form perfect for expressing love.

In one of da Lentini’s love sonnets he tells of a lover’s deep attachment to his beloved. After declaring his service to God and wanting to be in the folds of heaven the lover reveals:

“……..I wouldn’t want to go there without my lady

The one with fair hair and pale complexion,

Because without her I could never be happy,

Being separated from my lady.

But I do not say this with blasphemous intent,

As if I wanted to sin with her:

If I did not see her shapely figure

And her beautiful face and tender look:

Since it would greatly comfort me

    To see my women shine in glory….” 

(from Teagan De Danaan)


The Leopard, Chapter 4, ‘Love at Donnafugata’:

The love between the dashing and chivalrous Tancredi and the mesmerising Angelica in Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s, The Leopard is an intoxicating young love set against the upheavel of Sicilian society as Italy is unified. And their passionate, yet ultimately doomed love, reaches its height in the fourth chapter.

Lampedusa’s language allows the reader to feel the enrapture of the young lovers when Tancredi writes:

“Dearest Angelica, I’ve come, and for you. I’m head over heels in love, but also wet as a frog, filthy as a lost dog and hungry as a wolf. The very minute I have cleaned myself up and consider myself worthy of appearing before the loveliest creature in the world, I will hurry over to you….”


Sicilian Kiss, a cocktail made with an elixir of love:

Sicilian Kiss, a cocktail or shooter, is perfectly balanced with the bittersweet smoothness of Amaretto di Saronno, a northern Italian liqueur shrouded in romantic legend from the 1500s.

It is said that a talented young painter, Bernardino Luini was commissioned to paint a chapel in Saronno’s church dedicated to the Madonna. The story is that a young widow became his model and lover and she gave him a gift of apricot kernels soaked in brandy.

Maybe all legend however, it is a great story.

That gift is thought to be the first Amaretto: a deep amber liqueur with flavours of burnt sugar, marzipan and cherry which is said to be an elixir of love.

Like many cocktails, its origins are obscure, so I can only guess. Has the Sicilian Kiss got nothing to do with romance at all but more to do with that damning double cheek kiss between Andreotti and Riina? Or is it simply that the bittersweet Amaretto captures the bittersweet nostalgia of Sicily?

However, a Sicilian Kiss: Amaretto coupled with Southern Comfort in equal parts (15ml of each) served with ice in a short glass is so good, easy to make and it would be a perfect shot on a cold snowy Saint Valentine’s day in Sicily’s Madonie Mountains.






Note: Wikipedia provided some background reading for this blog. Suzanne 

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