Sarchiapone, the fresh and thirst-quenching summer drink

by Federico Quagliuolo

Not all weeders are bad.
When we tell someone they are a "sarchiapone“, Usually, we're not paying a compliment. It is usually said in the presence of a clumsy and a bit stupid person, or when we talk about a large and useless object or a food so heavy it becomes indigestible. In other cases, however, it is used to indicate a very good and too naive person.
There is also a good weeder: it's about a very simple drink Made of water, ice and lemon. It was the specialty of the acquafrescai and it is the most beautiful thing that can happen during a sultry summer.

Warning: let's not confuse it with the Sarchiapone of Atrani, which is a stuffed pumpkin. What a mess!

sarchiapone al bar
A procidano sarchiapone with sparkling water and lemon granita

We only know that if you drink it is good

Among the many etymologies of the sarchiapone, there is no certainty and many imaginative reconstructions. Not even Utet's etymological dictionary is able to give an explanation, leaving the word to thepopular imagery. The only certainty is that the word appeared for the first time in "lo cunto de li cunti”By Basile and, a few years later, he appears as one of the main characters of the Cantata dei Pastori of 1698. It was also the name of a horse quoted by Totò in a very sad poem and became famous in a sketch by the Veronese Walter Chiari in 1958.

To find it in the context of drinks we have to dust one metropolitan legenda from the early 1900s: it seems that a kiosk of Piazza Carlo III has decided to give this name to an already known digestive by all the Neapolitan acquafrescai, popularly famous as "flushing“.

The digestive is drunk like this: after filling a small glass with sparkling water and lemon, add a teaspoon with half a tip of bicarbonate. There, it should be drunk immediately while it produces bubbles.

Our mythical acquafrescaio, however, knew more than the devil. And he wanted to create one new recipe to drink with less haste and which, according to him, was powerful enough to pass indigestion even to those who had eaten a "sarchiapone“.

Actually it is not even known what the original recipe is. Every bar and every acquafrescaio in Campania, when asked for a sarchiapone, will propose one different solution of water, ice, lemon and bicarbonate: in fact, there are those who make a drink with sparkling water and lemon granita and who is more orthodox and prepare the classic drink of water, bicarbonate and lemon, which many years ago had as a special ingredient the water of the Mummarelle and she was a proud one exclusive by Saint Lucia. Finally, others prepare one lemonade with granita.
Even if the recipes are completely different from each other, the solutions are super effective against the summer heat.

Limoni Costiera
Have you ever tried lemons from the Amalfi Coast? Photograph by Indiana Jones Neapolitan

Beneficial effects of Sarchiapone

The only certainty is that it is one thirst-quenching solution, with zero calories and excellent from a nutritional point of view, given that lemon flavored water reinstates i mineral salts and leaves a feeling of satisfaction on the thirsty palate. The baking soda, when added, has an effect digestive. But beware of bubbles, which immediately spill on your clothes!

The lemon water also has no doubts beneficial effects on the body: cleanses the body of toxins, aids the digestive process and is a natural detoxifier. There are also those who claim that it is a good remedy to stimulate weight loss. Obviously by taking the drink without exaggeration.

The Sicilian version

Sicily has made an art of thirst-quenching drinks and, in all the kiosks of the island, a solution very similar to the Neapolitan one is sold: "Salt, lemon and seltz", sometimes also sold in the slightly sweeter variant with the lime (or lime).
There preparation is elementary and, after mixing 1/5 of lemon juice with Selz water, you need to shake the drink using a spoon with a tip of salt.

-Federico Quagliuolo


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