Italian spirits maker, Don Ciccio & Figli has been busy at work this past year, from raising over $430,000 for its new Ivy City distillery to the release of its new fall-flavored drink Ambrosia.
The Don Ciccio & Figli brand takes a fresh approach to liqueurs offering a comprehensive collection of handmade products with flavors spanning from the beautifully bitter to the seductively sweet. Many of the ingredients are sourced from directly within the US, including artichokes and citrus fruits from California, cherries from Michigan, fennel, and dill from Pennsylvania and Maryland, just to name a few.
We spoke with Jonathan Fasano, the Portfolio Manager of Don Ciccio & Figli about how the brand has evolved since its 2012 inception.
Photo Credit: Jennifer Chase
Kivo Daily: Millennials spend less on alcohol than baby boomers, but are more willing to try new, exciting alcohol products. How does the brand play into this trend, if at all?
Jonathan Fasano: Don Ciccio & Figli plays perfectly into the adventurous spirit of millennials due to the unique nature of the lineup from start to finish. Not your average Amari, Aperitivi, and Cordials, there are lesser-known flavors in our lineup spanning over a dozen profiles to tantalize the palate with a more layered story behind each.
As a result, consumers are excited about the ability to be creative at home with our products, further encouraging the exploratory nature of their everyday lives as millennials. With information overload these days, there are more educated and curious palates out there. We are here to satisfy those palates but with flavors and recipes that have been made by our family for centuries.
KD: How did the D&C brand come to be? Spill the beans!
JF: Our brand truly began back in the mid-1800s with the great grandparents of our founder, Francesco Amodeo, doing what they do best, creating. Whether it was traditional Italian dishes featuring edible ingredients from the Amalfi Coast to liqueurs spanning the bitter to the sweet, their family, like most Italian families, would rather bring to the table their homemade goods instead of purchasing them.
After establishing themselves as some of the most interesting liqueur makers on the coast, their recipes made their way from one generation to the next until production was brought to a halt in 1980. The earthquake of Irpinia decimated much of the Amodeo’s property, destroying the distillery and the lemon trees lining their gardens. After lying dormant for over 25 years, Francesco Amodeo began to resurrect the time tested recipes in the back of a restaurant he worked at in downtown DC starting in 2009.
When DC changed its laws regarding distillation in the district, he felt an opportunity was at hand to share his family’s work with the world. Established in 2012, Don Ciccio & Figli opened in the North West quadrant of DC with only 1800 square feet of production space where Francesco began with 6 products, all on the sweeter side (cordials). In 2016, our facility expanded to 3500 square feet with distribution to 25 states across the US.
Riding the wave of craft spirits and resurgence of Italian style liqueurs, we now serve over 33 states, as well as Panama, Puerto Rico, and Canada with a family of products that has most recently reached 15 in a new facility that is roughly 7,000 square feet. Our strategy has always stayed the same- don’t compromise and be true to your roots.
Utilizing the same small-batch production methods while respecting and maintaining the integrity of our ingredients, we have-and always will-produce our liqueurs as the generations before us would have wanted, never cutting corners on taste just to fit trends but rather to provide a genuine experience by sharing the flavors of the Amalfi Coast in liquid form.
KD: As of 2017, studies reflect that Americans are drinking less beer and more liquor as millennials turn to whiskey, liquor, and other spirits. Why?
JF: We believe that Americans are focusing more on liquor versus beer because of the over-saturation of beer, as well as for the curiosity and creativity that spirits encourage. Beer will always have its time and place but there is a plateau that you can reach relatively easily.
With spirits, the combination of flavors through cocktails or even neat, are much more customizable for all types of consumers. With the increase of small producers around the US, there is also more information sharing, raising awareness of types of spirits, and their range of flavors. For instance, whiskey takes on many different personalities depending upon the mash build and aging process.
Similarly, with gin, more or fewer botanicals can create several different sensations, allowing the consumer to find the one that best fits their preference. The same goes for Amari and Aperitivi these days too. We strive to inform our customers about the range of bitterness that exists within our world of liqueurs, allowing them to freely choose what degree of bitterness and intensity of flavor they enjoy the most. Once introduced to something fun, interesting, and unique, the gates open up, revealing more and more possibilities of stimulating one’s palate.
KD: Let’s talk about health gurus. How does the brand play into those individuals who are cautious about the types of alcohol they consume?
JF: Health and wellness are two primary focuses when it comes to making and sharing products from Don Ciccio & Figli. Made as medicinal remedies long ago, Amari, aperitivi, and cordials were meant to cleanse your system by stimulating digestion while fortifying the body with important vitamins and minerals.
Originally established by monks and apothecaries, barks and roots were utilized for their high levels of quinine with layers of different healing herbs and spices to treat ailments and hereditary conditions. We maintain the same practices of starting with a foundation of barks and roots with added botanicals to our macerations for optimal flavor and fortification. Each ingredient has been hand-selected based upon is medicinal characteristics and interesting flavor.
Something we do slightly differently at Don Ciccio & Figli is producing our spirits at a lower ABV. It seems today low ABV to no-ABV cocktails is all the craze. This has always been our approach. For liqueurs, sweeteners are a must.
However, producing liqueurs, we understand that our use of sugar content is higher than that of a whiskey, gin or vodka, so we focus on lower ABV spirits to keep the sucrose down. We do not want to overload the product with sugar or alcohol so we can showcase the ingredients in their purest form, bringing it all back to maintaining their integrity and authenticity.
We are less focused on the business of alcohol and more focused on the blending and sharing of flavors. We encourage mixing our products to enhance the layers of a cocktail but create liqueurs to be equally enjoyed on their own as a digestive to help the body shake off the day and reinvigorate the body.
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