Tuaca Italian Liqueur and the Livorno Cocktail

by Stevi on December 13, 2008

in Bitters,Brandy,Gin,Liqueurs,Original,Reviews,Vermouth

My initial association with the word Tuaca is a horse. Why someone named a Quarter Horse after an Italian liqueur, I’ll never know. I’ll admit I was surprised to discover the current owner of Tuaca the horse had never heard of Tuaca the liqueur. Then again, even though I had heard of it, I don’t think I’d ever tasted it until receiving a sample recently.

Tuaca claims to be the resurrection of a recipe initially created for Lorenzo de’Medici (1449 – 1492). Often called “the Magnificent,” he was the de facto ruler of the Florentine Republic, and remembered as a patron to artists such as Michaelangelo and Botticelli. The modern label of Tuaca depicts the scene on the “Gates of Paradise,” bronze doors created by Lorenzo Ghiberti in 1425 for the Duomo Cathedral in Florence.

Livorno Cocktail

Livorno Cocktail

As the story goes, Gaetano Tuoni and Giorgio Canepa recreated this liqueur in 1938 and originally named it “Tuoca,” a portmaneau of their names. The drink became popular with U.S. soldiers stationed in the Livorno area during World War II, and eventually was exported to America in the 1950s and has been generally available since.

Tuaca starts with a brandy from the Emilia Romagna region, then sweetened with natural sugar to make it a liqueur. Several flavor essences, primarily vanilla, orange, and lemon, and then infused into the liqueur.

This is a truly delightful liqueur. The smell is soft and sweet, with vanilla being the most distinctive scent. This natural, soft vanilla predominates on the tongue, followed by a rich butterscotch. The lemon and orange citrus provide undertones. As a liqueur, it is by definition quite sweet, but this one does manage to provide an excellent balance of flavor. I shared a sip with several friends, all of whom agreed it was something they wanted more of.

Since Tuaca is based on brandy, I thought I might try to make a sidecar variation with it. I’m not the first one to try this, of course. I think my version provides a tart version while using Tuaca as the primary ingredient.


2 oz Tuaca
1.5 oz Meyer lemon juice
0.5 oz orange liqueur (Citronge)

Following the Motocarrozzetta, I wanted something a little drier. I thought Hayman’s Old Tom Gin might make a nice mix with the Tuaca. To that I added a good dose of Lillet, and some orange bitters to highlight the citrus in the Tuaca. The resulting cocktail is refreshingly crisp, with a pleasant vanilla flavor.

Livorno Cocktail

1.5 oz old tom gin (Hayman’s)
0.75 oz Lillet blanc
0.25 oz Tuaca
2 dashes orange bitters

Stir over ice, strain into cocktail glass.

As a huge fan of vanilla, I’m really pleased to find a liqueur that provides such a fragrant, balanced addition of the flavor. I suspect I’ll be using it to add that taste to more combinations in the future.

Have you tried Tuaca? How do you feel it compares to other brandy based liqueurs?

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Cynthia Closkey December 13, 2008 at 2:04 pm

I like Tuaca quite a bit. A cheesy little cocktail book I have suggests mixing it with bourbon (about 2:1 bourbon to Tuaca I think) to make an Urban Bourbon. Depending on the bourbon, this can be yummy.


stevi December 13, 2008 at 2:07 pm

I’m planning on using the Tuaca in places of simple syrup in an old fashioned (I do prefer mine with Bourbon; if I’m using rye I’ll go for a sazerac!) and seeing if a good balance can be found there. What bourbons work best here?


Cynthia Closkey December 14, 2008 at 8:05 am

Honestly, it has been a while since I made one. I welcome the opportunity to revisit it though. Will report back.


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