Hello late August! You might think in late August, where, for let’s say at least 85.4% of the readers of this blog, it’s pretty hot, that I wouldn’t dare suggest making a drink that means “thought.” But I will dare (as the song says), cause really, you don’t have to think too much about this drink when making it, and because it is rather refreshing and, if I may dare say, yummy. Just be sure your Brachetto d’Acqui (the slightly sweet Italian frizzante wine) is well chilled, or drop an ice cube into the glass. It is August, after all.
Sometimes, in summer, it’s too hot for me to even write up a new, clever, headnote (anyone who shakes their head at “clever” please leave the room). And sometimes, I read another headnote from a book and just think, well, that says it all, really. This is one of those times.
In his famous eighteenth sonnet, when he lays down the immortal line “and summer’s lease hath all too short a date,” Shakespeare perhaps wasn’t exactly referring to a coquetry that happened in those hotter months between him and a fair lady, an ardent connection that slid smoothly past light flirtation into something a trace more serious, a Mercury-rising affaire d’amour that—for at least as long as those months lasted—seemed more important than the sun. As these adoring concerns are, sadly, like this drink, over much too soon, his line does hit the romantic nail on the head, though—showing again why Will S. was the master.
Summer Dream, from Dark Spirits, Serves 2 (because of reasons mentioned above)
1. Add the orange and peach slices to a cocktail shaker. Using a muddler or wooden spoon, muddle well.
2. Fill the cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the bourbon, Campari, simple syrup, and lemon juice. Shake really well, if a little wistfully, for at least 15 seconds.
3. Strain the dream through a fine strainer equally into two cocktail glasses.
A Variation: Want a more cluttered drink? After step 2, instead of straining into cocktail glasses, pour the whole shebang, ice and fruit and every sad last word, into two large goblets. Rename it the Disordered Dream.
I love this bubbly-and-bitter-belle-of-the-ball. First, it’s a variation on the Negroni (which is, of course, a fav) that subs in Prosecco for gin. Second, I originally had it and heard about it when staying in Florence at a spot called the Hotel Casci (not far from the Duomo, don’t you know), and pal Jeremy was there as well (we were drinking and playing Quiddler after a day of touristing). Third, it means “wrong” due to its Negroni-less-ness, if that makes sense, and I think having a drink called “wrong” is genius. Fourth, well, it tastes great–can’t go wrong with Campari, sweet vermouth, and Prosecco. Fifth, it (like La Rana D’Oro below) was a featured drink at a recent charity event that I slung drinks at (for my ma, if you didn’t know). Sixth, it’s also featured in my book Champagne Cocktails (which, if you don’t have, please buy, cause I need to be able to buy more sparkling wine). And seventh, well, seventh just adds up all the earlier six reasons to expand my love of this drink to epic–epic–proportions.
3 ounces sweet vermouth
3 ounces Campari
2 orange twists, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the vermouth and Campari. Shake well.
2. Strain the mixture equally into two flute glasses. Top with Prosecco and garnish with the orange twists.
A Variation: You could use the Italian sparkling wine Moscato d’Asti or Asti Spumante here and be happy about it.
A Second Note: I could see the rationale behind serving this in a cocktail glass in the Negroni’s honor. I could also see the rationale behind calling this a sparkling Americano. But it doesn’t mean I’m going to do either of them.
Here we are (after a little delay due to French, Italian, and Russian TV censor problems) with Episode Two of the new season of the Good Spirit Cocktail to Cocktail Hour, hosted by me. In this episode, I take over the mixing duties (and the “wearing-painful-garlands” duties) and show how to make an Eden Cocktail. The Eden is a sparkling wine drink, with rum, Campari, fruit juices, and bubbly. It’s ideal for the holiday season, so let’s call this the C2C holiday special! Oh, there’s swearing in here (it is the holidays), but it’s bleeped out. So, play the video for the kiddies as the Yule log burns and as you load up on holiday puddings. And a ho, ho, ho to you, too.
Heck, I was going to say this: “some days, about 1 pm, I just get a feeling that I’d like some sort of sparkling wine cocktail.” But honestly, between us bubbly pals (and we are, I hope), what I really mean is this: “every day, about 1 pm, I just get a feeling that I’d like some sort of sparkling wine cocktail.” Today, it’s the Pensiero, which is from the upcoming Champagne Cocktails: 50 Cork-Popping Concoctions and Scintillating Sparklers. The Pensiero is a drink that involves thinking only to the point of the word (Pensiero) meaning “thought” (that’s almost a meta-booze-ical sentence). And to the point of tracking down a little Brachetto d’Acqui. If you don’t know, Brachetto d’Acqui is another in the lovely line of Italian effervescents, one made from the Brachetto grape (originally grown in the Acqui district). It’s lightly fizzy and features a taste redolent of berries, cherries, spices, and flowers–and it’s a bit sweet, making it an after-lunch or dinner partner of choice for many. If it’s 1 pm wherever you are, or fast approaching, then I suggest you track down a bottle and starting thinking about the Pensiero (whoa, that’s deep).
When clearing out space in the homemade liqueurs cabinet (for the new bottles from the below post), I realized that I had a few ounces left of some homemade triple sec that I’d constructed during my first liqueur-making frenzy. Not sure why I didn’t completely guzzle it up, cause it ruled/rules–not too sugary and just orange-y enough. Anyway, I wanted to utilize the last drops in making up a new drink (to give that triple sec the honor it deserved), and the Crimson Slippers was the end result. An awfully pretty result, as you can see.
Since I had the Campari bottle at the front of the shelves (from the Negroni-making), I thought I’d play around with it in the drink, even knowing that it can be a dangerous addition to the party because of the bitter undertones. But hey, I love bitter. So much that I ended up adding a dash of some homemade bitters in there as well (I’d made them for a bitters party thrown by no other than bartender Andrew Bohrer, from Cask Strength). These homemade bitters were based on an old “stomach” bitters called Hostetter’s, and take the bitters scale to another level. If I play around with the drink a little further in the future, I might try in other bitters–I think Peychaud’s would work well (and look well, too). Wait, I’m skipping the base liquor. I decided to go with rum, since it’s summertime. Well, and I thought it would be a nice touch, especially the dark variety, which has enough personality to hold its own, and thought it would be enjoyable to work to balance it with the other players.
The Campari uses a disguise to try and sneak away from the scene.
The end result is a touch bitter, but bounces around well due to that touch of triple sec (the homemade kind has such a bright orange-ness that it doesn’t get overwhelmed). The color, with that red glow, seemes like it would fit in at a crime scene, too. Maybe not one of the modern, forensic-equipment-and-fluorescent-y-mood-lit heavy scenes, but an Agatha Christie attic scene, with lots of thinking and sipping and a rocking chair. Here’s the final recipe.
2 ounces dark rum
1 ounce Campari
1/2 ounce homemade triple sec
1 dash bitters
Lime slice, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway up with ice cubes. Add the rum, Campari, triple sec, and bitters. Shake well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Squeeze the lime slice over the glass and drop it in.
I love the Negroni. It’s such an accurate mingling of flavors, a demonstration of how, with a little attention to balance, the world (or at least the drinking world) can come into alignment in a manner that has to make the universe applaud. Sure, I’m going overboard a bit with my fluffy language, but that’s what a really good drink drives us to, flights of poetic fancy usually reserved for singing the praises of nymphs–or at least of the hottie at the other end of the bar.
I love the Negroni so much that I made wife Natalie and pals Jeremy and Meg track down Café Giacosa in Florence, when we were visiting Italy, which is where the Negroni was thought to have been invented by a Florentine count, Camillo Negroni, and bartender Fosco Scarselli, who was bartending at the Bar Casoni, which became Café Giacosa (that sentence is much more confusing than the drink itself). The count wanted more kick in his Americano (which is Campari, sweet vermouth, and soda, and which, if you haven’t had one, is tasty in its own right when the sun’s heat is descending on your head like warm cotton) one day after a long night of dancing the Volta, and the Negroni was born. At least that’s the story. The Café Giacosa is now owned by Italian designer Roberto Cavalli, and packed with animal print stools and I suppose oodles of style (I think we weren’t up to the normal clientele, as we were a bit sweaty and rocking shorts and t-shirts), as well as super friendly bartenders–super friendly and super attractive bartenders. My guess is that they’re models between gigs, or wannabe models, or just modelesque drink slingers. They made dandy Negronis though, which, in the end, matters more than the history, even. Drinking them there, surrounded by the faux leopard prints, in the one of the world’s finest cities, was a perfect way to while away the afternoon.
The Negroni I’m having now is being consumed at night (though who knows when I’ll actually get this post posted), and in “up” format. Sometimes I enjoy my Negronis over the rocks (when it’s a little sweaty out and I want to have some ice for accompaniment; then it’s “Negroni on the rocks, ain’t no big surprise” as the song says), but the moon is out, and I’m wearing a tux and feeling classy, and having it up seemed the right way to accent the evening. I don’t always feel that a drink should be changeable like that (and I’m sure some will turn up their noses at my even suggesting it, and that’s okay, too, cause everyone has to make those choices. And, while we’re admitting things, I’m not really wearing a tux). But, somehow, the Negroni works both ways for me.
Much in the same way as both Diana Prince and Wonder Woman work for me–one is more outwardly heroic, but the secret identity is also important, and also a key role. See, I tend to think (as I’ve mentioned before somewhere) of the Negroni as the Wonder Woman of drinks (this taking drinks into the DC universe, and showing my boundless love for the Negroni in geek form), after the Martini’s Superman and the Manhattan’s Batman. This may be giving it outlandish props (again, disagree if you want–do it in the comments though, and let me know who you’d sub in instead). The Wonder Woman TV show theme song does have the line “dressed in satin tights, fighting for your rights,” and I see the Campari as the satin tights in this situation, which I guess makes the gin the rest of the costume, and that sweet vermouth the magic lasso and the bullet-deflecting bracelets (as without it, the drink would be too metallic? Seems to make sense). And, the Negroni has an even-keeled nature (like Wonder Woman), but is still somewhat a drink of the people (attached to the world, and not belong to the universe). But I’m going far afield. Make yourself one tonight, and you’ll soon have your own theories. Here’s the recipe I used:
1-1/2 ounces gin
1-1/2 ounces Campari
1-1/2 ounces sweet vermouth
Orange twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice cubes. Add everything. Shake well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with an orange twist.
A Variation: I heard about this from Pierre, a Florence bartender (who I met at the Hotel Casci). If you make a Negroni with Champagne or sparkling wine (you’d have to put it in after shaking and straining the Campari and vermouth, then top with the bubbly), it’s called a “Spagliato.” Which means “wrong.”
The Man Behind the Evening's PlansA.J. Rathbun is a freelance food and entertainment writer, poet and author, a frequent guest on the Everyday Food program (Martha Stewart Living/Sirius satellite radio), and is a contributor to culinary & entertainment magazines such as Every Day with Rachael Ray, The Food Network Magazine, Real Simple, Wine Enthusiast, and many others. Of course, there's so much more to it than that...Read More