Thursday, March 18, 2010

Livorno and its Ponce


Livorno is a port city on the Tyrrhenian Sea (part of the Mediterranean Sea) located
on the western edge of Tuscany. It is the capital of the province of Livorno and the third-largest port on the western coast of Italy, having a population of approximately 160,000 residents.
Livorno was defined as an "ideal town" during the Italian renaissance. Today, it reveals its history through the structure of its neighborhoods, crossed by canals and surrounded by fortified town walls.
Worldwide famous liqueurs as Tuaca and Galliano are produced in Livorno. Also, speaking about beverages, few things are more representative of this town than the popular drink called Ponce.
If the name sounds familiar to English-speaking readers, it is because it most likely comes from a local adaptation of the word punch, probably introduced in Livorno by the many English sailors who gathered there when the harbour of Leghorn was one of the most important ones in the Mediterranean sea.
Two versions of Ponce are available: ponce a vela (sail) and ponce al mandarino (mandarin). The first is a mixture of coffee and hot liquor (very similar to the Irish coffee, but without cream) with the addition of a small piece of lemon cut in a sail-like shape, the second one is the result of a chemical manipulation of a mysterious orange (the colour of mandarin) rum-like liquid warmed-up to iron-melting temperature.
Because of such a high temperature of serving, ponce is drunk in small thick-bottomed glasses (like shot glasses).
Both drinks are among the best solutions to all problems in life, and are particularly welcome in cold winter nights, when the "purest" Livornesi meet at the legendary Bar Civili. Fueled by a few ponci, debates on the highest topics soon flourish, usually around the issues of money (lack of in particular), soccer, politics, and few others.
Visiting the Bar Civili and having a traditional Ponce alla Livornese is a great experience, strongly recommended to all of those interested to understand these unique city and its characteristic locals.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Gianni -
    I recently visited the wonderful town of Livorno and was able to snag a bottle of ponce al mandarino with two Vittori glasses.
    Problem is...I don't have a steamer at home! Would you have any advice on how to heat up the ponce at home?

    ReplyDelete

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