Super Punch - Gastro Obscura


Super Punch

An obscure Italian amaro became the pride of Pittsburgh.

Before you even open the bottle, Super Punch stands out. The obscure amaro’s label, engulfed in verdant flame, resembles a skateboard decal, while its recommended uses are rendered with a charmingly poor translation: “With ice and soda its [sic] refreshin. Moreover it is unequalled in flavour when combined with ice cream when sprinkled on.” Then, there’s the flavor. Punch describes the 88-proof liqueur as “tasting of bubblegum, Jägermeister and Robitussin.” And yet, this unlikely tipple has become the pride of Pittsburgh.

Jannamico, a small cordial company based in Lanciano (a city in the Abruzzo region of Italy, near the Adriatic) began producing Super Punch in the late 19th century. The beverage gets its name not from its knock-you-out intensity, but because “punch” describes a category of Italian liqueur known for being sweet, syrupy, and often served warm in winter. Joseph D’Andrea, an immigrant from a town near Lanciano, is responsible for bringing Super Punch to Pennsylvania. In the 1950s, the D’Andrea Wine & Liquor company started importing the liqueur and it quickly became a hit with the city’s Italian community. Once, Joseph’s son, John, recalls that the family tried to stop carrying it and the outcry was fierce. He told the Pittsburgh City Paper that “all the old Italian guys went crazy.”

But Super Punch fandom doesn’t end with Italians. Steel City dive bars began stocking the distinctive amaro, affectionately referring to it as “Italian Jägermeister.” A more recent wave of craft cocktail bars also followed suit, recognizing the unique drink as a point of local pride. Bartenders have experimented with everything from putting carbonated Super Punch on draft to mixing cocktails that blend the syrupy liqueur with pineapple and lemon. Old-school Italians typically stick to adding it to hot coffee or pouring—ahem, sprinkling—it on ice cream.

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