Winchester coffee liqueur hits store shelves

By Ryan Cornell

WINCHESTER — Dick Garofalo, 74, pulls a novelty wanted poster from out of his office desk. A photo of his grandmother, Francesca Inzero, sits above the listed reward on the poster.

Inzero, he said, was 6 years old when her family moved from Sarno, Italy, to the U.S. in 1897. Later on, during Prohibition, she made and sold wine and liqueurs.

“So I always say my grandmother was a bootlegger,” Garofalo said.

Nearly a century later, her grandson is reviving the family trade and using her same recipe for walnut liqueur.

Based out of an 1,800-square-foot distilled spirits plant in Winchester, Garofalo, co-owner Dana Norris and his son and “right hand man,” Josh Norris, create liqueurs in flavors including walnut, coffee, apricot, limoncello, tart cherry and Father Ewing, a specially formulated concoction that Garofalo said tastes unique to each palate.

“That’s the exciting thing to me, that everyone tastes the liqueurs and they taste something different,” he said. “They like the product, but it’s always a different flavor.”

Garofalo Artisans Liqueur Inc. began production at the end of last year and its Night Life coffee liqueur is the label’s first and only product to be sold on Alcohol Beverage Control store shelves starting earlier this spring.

He said the department tasted his walnut liqueur, but he wasn’t able to meet the desired production yet — he handpicks walnuts from trees around Northern Virginia — of 120 cases. He said they plan to introduce more of their liqueurs to ABC stores soon.

The coffee liqueur has a sweet espresso taste with a subtle cocoa backend. To get that flavor, they use ground coffee from Edinburg-based Cabin Creek Roasters and cocoa nibs.

Garofalo said the liqueur can be used to make a great Black Russian, White Russian, Revolver or “the best Irish Coffee you’ll ever drink.”

“And you don’t have to put Jameson in it because the coffee liqueur is 60 proof,” he said, adding that it can also be poured on ice cream.

Night Life coffee liqueur is sold at 112 ABC locations throughout Virginia, including stores in Winchester, Front Royal, Strasburg, Woodstock and Mount Jackson. Starting in June, he said they will host tastings at two Winchester stores.

The coffee liqueur retails for $21.80 per 375-milliliter bottle.

An amendment that passed at this year’s general assembly session appoints Garofalo Artisan Liqueurs as an agent of the Virginia ABC. When it takes effect in July, the label will be able to offer tastings and sell a variety of other liqueurs at its plant at 830 N. Kent St. Garofalo said he also plans to sell bags of ground coffee that are used in the liqueur.

Liqueurs at the plant are crafted using a process called maceration. Natural oils and flavors are extracted from fruits, nuts and berries by soaking them in 190-proof neutral grain spirits, which is then mixed with simple syrup to produce a liqueur that isn’t too sweet or syrupy. Garofalo said his products don’t crystallize, which is a common problem among liqueurs.

Garofalo, who has spent much of his life working at Xerox and in health insurance, turns 75 later this month.

“This is something I’ve been wanting to do for maybe 30 years,” he said. “Talking about putting products on the shelf, people pushing me to sell it, starting a company and I finally did.”

Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rcornell@nvdaily.com