Giacomo Bernard returned to his valley, the Val Chisone from Marseille in 1902 and became a beverage producer, making gazzosa, a lemon drink like Sprite only better. It came in what they called a Codd bottle, with a little marble inside that sealed the carbonated beverage tight so that the cork or stopper wouldn’t pop out. Kids loved it when the adults emptied the bottle into a like amount of beer to create what they called a “panaché” and what might be called a “shandy” by more northerly imbibers. The kids got the marble from the gazzosa bottle and all was well with the world.
Eventually Giacomo made his journeys to Turin very efficient. He loaded up his carriage with bottles of herb and mint liquors to sell at Turin bars and restaurants, then loaded up the now empty carriage with barrels of beer from the Bosio & Caratsch brewery that he could bottle and sell locally. He did this from the very same location you can go today on Via C. Alberto, 20 in Pomaretto.
And why would you go to a place called Bernard? To taste some of the most intriguing and beguiling liquors on the planet. If you love the mountains, you can indeed take back the perfume of the high mountain flowers in one of Enrico Bernard’s elixors and liquors.
You see, the industrial age went on to kill the local production of soft drinks and the bottles got cheaper. So what to do? Make mountain herb liquors the best way possible, in a way a factory couldn’t dream of coming close to the expensive techniques that make this (quite reasonably priced) liquor so close to the flavors and perfume of the original flowers and roots extracted from high in the alps.
No heat is used. The botanicals are dried on mats in the Alpine air, then infused in local wheat alcohol and spring water for up to a year. Everything is handcrafted except for the bottling and labeling. No industry is going to go that far.
The number of bottles open for your taste test seems to go on forever. You might need to pace yourself. Mountain roads aren’t straight you know!
If you’re lucky, Enrico will pour his favorites for you and describe them—in Italian of course, but the beverages speak for themselves.
Enrico makes a gin you won’t believe, in addition to the elixirs that range from slight to full-on bitterness. My favorite is the bitter Baratheir, which is said to have “restorative and digestive” properties.
Sërpoul is a wild thyme liquor using herbs grown at 8,500 feet.
The Val di Chisone
You may only know the Val di Chisone if you’re a skier or you spent a lot of time watching the 2006 Olympics from Torino. There are many things to see and do here. The crown jewel is the Fenestrelle Fortress built in 1728, the largest in Europe and home to the longest covered stairway in the world (3997 steps). The fort inspired Alexandre Dumas to write The Count of Monte Cristo.
Bernard …elixir dal 1902!
Bernard & C.
Via C. Alberto, 20
In the store and tasting room you’ll find not only an historic Coke machine, but other handcrafted foods and wines of the local region.