“I’m Mr. Cinnamon,” grins Joe Cannella, at the Craft Spirits Carnival at Ft. Mason where he was offering samples of his Cannella Cinnamon Cordial. His first batch, made at the Seven Stills Distillery in Dogpatch, sold out shortly after its release late last year. His fourth batch has just been bottled.
Cannella always knew his family name was Italian for cinnamon. But it was during a trip to Sicily with his uncle that a revelation struck: Having encountered a cinnamon liqueur behind a bar, they set about tasting several brands. Finally, he decided “I can do better than this.” So, he quit his job at Google to pursue the project full time.
Cannella began with brandy as a neutral base, and then set about finding just the right varietals of cinnamon. He studied the leading scientific botanical textbook on cinnamon, a 207-page tome that he now likes to bring to events, partly to poke fun at himself. “I’m a cinnamon nerd,” he laughs.
He settled on three types of cassia—what most Americans know as cinnamon—sourced from Vietnam, China, and Indonesia; and one Sri Lankan Ceylon cinnamon, whose essence is softer and contains some citrusy notes. Unlike some other makers, Cannella uses no extracts in his recipe.