Food and Leisure

The making of Manille Liqueur de Calamansi

A TASTE OF LIFE - Heny Sison - The Philippine Star

The first time I tasted Liqueur de Calamansi was when Olivia Limpe-Aw and her husband visited our newly opened restaurant, Victorino’s. She brought with her a bottle of their new product, Manille Liqueur de Calamansi. It reminded me of Italian limoncello, a strong liqueur infused with lemon.

In my “Basic Cakes and Icings” class, I include the making of limoncello for students to learn the basics of preparing flavored liqueur.

A liqueur is also known as a spirit, which has an indefinite shelf life; thus it is different from wine, which must be consumed quickly after the bottle is opened, otherwise it will become vinegar.

I told Olivia that the idea of using calamansi is a good one. In fact, upon tasting it, I told Olivia their product will sell well. Liqueur de Calamansi can be used in desserts — for example, a butter cake sprayed or soaked in Liqueur de Calamansi. It can also be used for sorbet or as an after-dinner drink.

I also love the packaging and it makes good pasalubong if you travel abroad. It is something we Filipinos can be proud of.

During the launch last Jan. 9 at Globe Tower in the Fort, I listened as media people interviewed Olivia Limpe-Aw and Berna Romulo Puyat. I was engrossed in the story of how the liqueur came to be.

Stephanie Zubiri, STAR food columnist and lifestyle personality, met Olivia Limpe-Aw, president of Destileria Limtuaco & Co., Inc. at a dinner event. They hit it off and decided to meet again to discuss how both ladies could work together to come up with Filipino-inspired cocktails using Destileria Limtuaco’s specialty liqueurs like Paradise Mango Rum Liqueur and Amadeo Coffee Liqueur for Stephanie’s then soon-to-open restaurant, Atelier 317.

Olivia, together with her son Clifford, resident mixologist at Destileria Limtuaco, paid Stephanie a visit when her restaurant opened. During the course of the cocktail tasting, Stephanie mentioned that she was looking into developing an after-dinner drink, something like a limoncello but using calamansi, to serve her customers. But she didn’t have time to do it, so Olivia offered to develop something for Stephanie

“It took us a few weeks to come up with a prototype product that utilized calamansi rinds in an alcohol base,” says Olivia. “It came out to be exactly what I was looking for, a digestif that perfectly captured the zesty freshness of calamansi. She got it spot-on and I was so excited!” says Stephanie.

The next stage was packaging and marketing the product. The product was a collaborative effort between Stephanie and Olivia. “Manille” (French for Manila) was chosen by Olivia as the brand and Stephanie suggested it be called Liqueur de Calamansi. “We also collaborated on the packaging concept and chose a French country style for the label but with Filipino design elements like the floral embroidery and callado design you would find in a barong tagalog for the back label,” says Olivia. Stephanie envisioned a vintage label but with a current approach in the design and this gave Manille Liqueur de Calamansi a distinct look and feel, something classically old world, natural and inviting to match the brand’s identity. “We also came out with gift bags made of cheesecloth and tin canisters that are consistent with the brand identity,” says Olivia.

“I’m really happy with what Destileria Limtuaco has created,” adds Stephanie. “Manille Liqueur de Calamansi is a great product and I’m proud to be part of this project from concept to implementation and to be its brand ambassador. We’re now talking about what other Philippine flavors to add to this line.”

The next challenge for Olivia was sourcing calamansi rinds for the commercial production of Manille. (Why rinds? Rinds contain the zest that is essential to producing liqueurs like limoncello.)

On June 12, Independence Day, Olivia met the Department of Agriculture’s Undersecretary for Special Concerns, Berna Romulo-Puyat, during the opening of Mafbex at the World Trade Center. “I went up to Usec Berna to thank her for helping us promote Paradise Mango Rum Liqueur in their various trade shows and to inform her that we had a new product, Amadeo Coffee Liqueur, which would very soon be exported to the US. I also mentioned a new product in the making, but my problem was I didn’t know where to get the calamansi rinds,” says Olivia.

Call it serendipity. Usec. Berna immediately called director Dax Gazmin of the DA’s Agribusiness Marketing Assistance Service (DA-AMAS) and introduced him to Olivia. It so happened that they had been trying to find additional markets for Mindoro’s calamansi farmers. When Olivia mentioned that they only needed calamansi rinds and not the whole fruit, this got director Gazmin and Usec. Romulo-Puyat even more excited.

The Philippine Rural Development Program (PRDP) of the Department of Agriculture identifies the priority commodities of each province and aligns its resources towards developing these commodities — things like improving farm-to-market roads, building consolidation areas and providing logistical support to reduce trade barriers for the benefit of farmers, producers and end users like processors and retailers.

Under the DA-AMAS Market Access Program, where business matching happens, and the Enterprise Development program under the PRDP — both offices under Asec. Gazmin — the DA linked up Destileria Limtuaco & Co., Inc. with the calamansi farmers and the TMCLD (a group of indigenous people, the Mangyan tribesmen from Oriental Mindoro) involved in the production and processing of calamansi there. One of their main products is a calamansi concentrate made through a hand-pressing process that does not damage the calamansi rinds. Destileria Limtuaco & Co., Inc. purchases these rinds at a price equivalent to the price of the whole fruit. In effect, the Mangyans are able to double their income through this enterprise. The proceeds from the purchase of the rinds are used to finance their Mangyan Center for Learning and Development, whose main objective is to educate the children of over 20 tribes in Mindoro and to preserve the Mangyan culture and language.

“We’re really excited about our new product Manille and we are very thankful for all the support and assistance provided by the Department of Agriculture under the leadership of Secretary Proceso Alcala. Usec. Berna Romulo-Puyat and Agribusiness Marketing Assistance Service director Dax Gazmin have been instrumental,” says Olivia, president of Destileria Limtuaco.

If life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. If life gives you calamansi rinds, you make a unique Filipino product like Manille. It is truly a win-win situation. Destileria Limtuaco gets their supply of calamansi rinds, and the DA hits two projects with one product, Manille, while the calamansi farmers and indigenous farmers of the TMCLD also get more income from what is considered a by-product  of their juice processing.

Now that Manille Liqueur de Calamansi is out on the market, Usec. Romulo-Puyat is all set to promote this proudly Philippine-made product at the best international and domestic food shows this year.












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