Recently (speaking here of just weeks ago, as opposed to minutes ago) here on the Spiked Punch blog, I had a drink called Far More Red, featuring Trentodoc sparkling wine, or wine crafted particularly finely within a particular spot within the Trentino region, if I have everything correctly. The drink was tasty (I say, without hopefully overly-tooting-my-own-horn), and I hope you try it. But today, just days before (well, nearly a week before as the calendar tells us), the bubbliest night of the year (New Year’s Eve, natch), and maybe then, too, I’m having sparkling wine in a non-cocktail-form. That’s right, straight up! But, I’m sticking the a Trentodoc sparkler, so if you haven’t read the Far More Red recipe, then do, cause it has more Trentodoc info, though here I’m having a different wine (that showed in the mail, also, probably from Santa) than there. Today, it’s: Monfort Riserva Brut. Made in the same classical method, sure, but here we have a grape combo of 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Nero, grown in vineyards that lie between 400 and 600 meters above sea level on hills where lie the towns of Meano, Vigo Meano, Cortesano, Gazzadina, and other spots I need to visit. What’s it all mean? A full frizzante, a delicate but flavorsome wine, a mix of floral, strawberry, pear, Honeycrisp apples, and an echo of fresh pastry (well, that’s my take), a sparkling wine ideal for pre-dinner sipping, but also, to me, one that’s ideal for sipping with that special someone as one year ticks away into another. Try it next week and see! Also, happy holidays!
You know, 2020 hasn’t been overly-packed with good days. There have been some, I’m sure and I’m hoping, for everyone, some big-ish good days, and some small-ish good days, even within it all. I had one recently when some bubbly showed up here, which made the day more, well, bubbly. It was also bubby from Italy (you know I love Italy, right?), specifically Trentodoc sparkling wine – Trentodoc being from the Trentino region, which is in the far north of Italy, a mountain-alp-y region, one which also has some Mediterranean-ness on the lower slopes. I’ll admit that’s not the Italian area I know best, but after tasting the sparkling wine from there, I need to know more! Made in the Meted Classico, or classic method, Trentodoc sparklers are also made from picked-by-hands Trentino grapes. Sounds yummy, right? But the proof is in the bottle, as the saying goes, and the one I’m popping off now is Maso Martis Extra Brut Rose.
Starting with its pale pink-y coloring, and enticing effervescence, it’s a wine you’ll want to drink as you pour – which is what you want, right? The taste (pino nero grapes, if you’re interested) has a berry-centric-ness, raspberries, strawberries, and then some currants, with a few delicate herbal notes, too, and a creamy nature ideal for a sunny day, a date night around the appetizer course, or, really, almost anytime. It’s also a swell base for cocktails. Well, you wouldn’t think I wouldn’t try it in a cocktail, right? I do so love bubble mixes, and with a flavorsome rose like this, I had to see how it’d play with others. Starting with another delicious number (and by some crazy occurrence also showed on the porch), but from closer to US home: Clear Creek Pear brandy. Made with Bartlett pears grown in OR (where Clear Creek is), it has a phenomenal pear nature, from the small to the lingering pear echoes, while still maintaining a warming brandy undercurrent. Then, I traveled back to Italy (to help the wine feel at home), with bitter and beautiful classic Campari – which not only adds layers of taste, but a rich redness, which is further underlined by our last ingredient, homemade grenadine. Altogether, what a drink! Refreshing but bursting with delights, and one the showcases and perfectly utilizes the wine and brandy. Dive in.
Far More Red
1 ounce Clear Creek Pear brandy
1/2 ounce Campari
1/2 ounce homemade grenadine (see grenadine recipe here, in the Note section)
3-1/2 ounces Maso Martis Extra Brut Rose sparkling wine
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the brandy, Campari, and grenadine. Shake it.
2. Strain the mix from Step 1 into a Champagne flute or comparable glass. Top with the bubbly. Stir carefully to combine. Enjoy.
Here’s a fine kettle of various ingredients mixed with booze. I had the mad/smart/odd/random/bored/inventive/normal idea not more than a couple weeks ago that I should make up a wine-based liqueur or aperitivo if you like (I like, so I’m gonna call it that), and that it should have basil in it (cause my basil plants were doing so well then, if, admittedly, not as well now as summer has dwindled), and maybe orange (cause I had an orange), and a roasted peach (which also was around and needed to be used, sans pit, but the roasting felt important), and some spices but not too many, and a hint of bitterness cause the best aperitivos (or many of them) tend to have that, and it should be pretty as that hour on a sunny late-summer day when night is nearly there, but not quite there, the hour you realize once again that summer and all things are transient, ephemeral, lovely. Whew, seems like a lot to ask of something made in a big glass jar!
But, you know, it worked out quite well. Not sure I reached the full heights I wanted, but came close-ish, to my taste, which might be different than yours. The basil is the strangest part of the equation, as it lost some of its, well, basil-ness if that makes sense. There’s not overriding basil smell or taste, or any, or very little; instead, it adds a slightly vegetal minty-ness. Interesting! The orange notes come through strong, with a little other citrus (thanks to lemon) and a dream of toasty peach, and the spice notes (tiny bits of ginger, star anise) are more inferred than active, if that makes sense. Oh, I should have started with: the wine I used as the base was an Orvieto Classico white wine, which I love, and which is dry-ish, but fruit-y-ish (more peach notes here), and grape-ish enough to bring a lot of flavor. I also added some vodka, as the wine solo didn’t seem to have enough umph for the end-of-summer delicate sadness I wanted. Sure, I’m weird! Gentian, the bittering agent of choice for so many things, underlines that thought, as well as balancing the sweetness. Really, all joshing and flighty language aside, Caducitivo (caduco in Italian meaning transient or ephemeral) was an awfully fun, and tasty, experiment, a fine pre-dinner, sipper, with a layered, light, orange-citrus-herb flavor containing a friendly bitter back end. Heck, I think I’ll make it again next year! And, with the below recipe, you can try it, too. I like sipping it at room temp, but think it’s best over ice, or chilled a bit. While I haven’t tried it yet, my guess is it’d be great with Prosecco, and also as a cocktail ingredient.
2 cups basil
1 roasted peach (see Note)
1 whole star anise
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
3 wide orange twists
2 wide lemon twists
2-1/2 cups Orvieto Classico (I used Ruffino, which is nice, solid, and not overly pricey)
1/2 cup vodka (I used Prairie Organic vodka, which is swell and came in the mail)
1 cup simple syrup
1/4 teaspoon crushed gentian
1. Add the basil, peach, star anise, ginger, and citrus twists to a large glass container with a good lid. Muddle nicely. Add the wine and vodka, stir, and put that lid on it. Store in a cool dark place away from the sun. Let sit two weeks, swirling occasionally.
2. Open it back up, add the simple syrup and gentian (see Second Note), and stir well. Place it back in the cool dark place, and let sit two more weeks, swirling occasionally.
3. Strain – I went once through a decent fine strainer to get the fruit out, and then through cheesecloth to add more clarity. You might need a third straining, too.
A Note: For the peach, I just baked it at 425 F until it was slightly roasted, not charred. Also, I didn’t use the pit, just the peach itself.
A Second Note: You could add this in Step 1, but I had unexpectedly ran out, so couldn’t. And there’s something (probably nothing) in adding that bittering agent later, letting the other ingredients meet up first.
If by some strange twist of fate you missed The Dirty Duck Part I Cocktail Talk, then by all means, please, take a moment of time to read and reflect on it before you dive in here. Don’t worry, I’ll wait. Okay, back? If so, then you know more than this post will tell you about the book The Dirty Duck by Martha Grimes, as well as, perhaps, if you followed the link trail more about the book The Man With a Load of Mischief, also by said Martha. All of which would be good for you to know, me thinks, cause within both books good pubs feature prominently – heck, they provide the names for the books! And the actual Dirty Duck pub, and much/some of the action, is in lovely and Shakespeare-y Stratford Upon Avon. What I didn’t mention earlier is that in both books, Grimes has a character drinking old favorite Campari, which doesn’t make it into nearly enough books. I’m not 100% sure that our author loves the red bitter aperitivo as much as I do, though she seems like a decent person, and what decent person wouldn’t? Not a one.
Her eyes actually seemed to be twinkling at him over the rim of her glass. What was she drinking? Naturally, Campari and lime.
–Martha Grimes, The Dirty Duck
Y’all know the song “Simple Life” by Skepta, right? “It’s the simple life that I’m dreaming of . . .” and all that? I feel that way on many days, even as I love complexity, too. I’m confusing! But today, I’m leaning towards the former, the simplicity, probably cause I’m missing lazy Italian afternoons under the (not too hot) olive oil sunshine, feet propped on a hundred-year-old stone fence, Umbrian hills unfolding, nothing really to do and no desire to do it, dogs (in my dreamlife, all the dogs) chasing rascally lizards or stretched within petting distance, cheese and taralli, and of course a Campari and Soda. While I can’t have all of that right now, or, perhaps, ever, I can have a Campari and Soda. So, that’s what I’m gonna do. I suggest you do the same.
Campari and Soda
2 ounces Campari
3 ounces club soda (see Note)
Orange twist, for garnish (see Note)
1. Fill a large Old Fashioned or comparable glass three quarters up with ice cubes. Add the Campari, give a quick stir.
2. Add the club soda, and the twist. Or two.
A Note: As it’s a bit warm, going more soda than Campari. Your ratio can change according to your mood. Also, I waver on the garnishing – sometimes I like lemon (which some think is weird), in slice or twist form, and sometimes orange, also in twist or slice form. You be you, but keep it simple.
If you didn’t know (and hey, why would you, unless you’re stalking me – you aren’t are you? Cause I’m really boring and feel for you if so), I recently, due to current events you know about, had an Italian vacation cut short by coronavirus. Said cutting short involved some radically fast packing (I mean, I’m a good suitcase arranger usually, but this was a mad dash), and that means quick choices about what to bring back, what you can fit, all that. One of the things I did bring back was a little bottle of Mazzetti Bitter, a deep red flavorfully-bitter aperitif with hints of rhubarb and lemon from the well-known grappa makers. Just like a week before the packing I purchased said bottle at my favorite north-Umbrian shop, Enoteca Lo Sfizio, which is a combination beautiful booze store, gift store, wine store, condiment-y store. It’s not huge (which is great cause huge stores scare me), but dreamy. So, ingredient one packed. One of the few other bottles I managed to squirrel away in said suitcases was a lean bottle of Donini Grappa (Donini being the finest winery in probably all of Umbria, owned by the nicest folks around), a monovitigno (one varietal that is, here being Sangiovese) grappa, very crisp and fragrant, that doesn’t forget that cozy grappa kick. Ingredient two packed. For ingredient three, I had to go out of suitcase – cause a rushed packing job sometimes has gaps. Luckily, on a past trip to Italy, I had packed in a smoother manner, cool-like, and managed to fit a bottle of Donini’s delicious Dono Di Dio, a vino liquoroso, or aged dessert wine that’s rich, lush, and needs to be tasted to be believed. If you’ve been Tuscany and had Vin Santo at a restaurant, think of that but like 10,000 times better. Yummy stuff. While I was sad to leave the Italian vacation, due to the wackiness of the travel (and cause once a trip is started, it’s always nice to be coming home), I was also very happy to make it back to Seattle. Which leads to: ingredient four in this here drink, Scrappy’s Seville Orange bitters. If your dream vacation is cut short unexpectedly by a world pandemic, a drink featuring the always-spot-on Scrappy’s and some ingredients reminding you of the vacation, well, it’s not going to get you over the experience, but sure makes thinking about it easier.
Forty Minutes Ago on the Balcony
1 ounce Mazzetti Bitter
1-1/2 ounces Donini Grappa
1/2 ounce Donini Dono Di Dio
Two dashes Scrappy’s Seville Orange bitters
Orange slice, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass three-quarters full with cracked ice. Add everything but the orange. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass or something that helps your day travel easier. Garnish with the orange.
I recently had a wonderfully wonderful (if I can say so in all humbleness, which I think I just did) drink on the old Spiked Punch called Boldness Be My Friend, which featured not one, not two, but three lesser-known (in the States, at least, and other countries outside the one they were birthed in, at least, and maybe even there) liquid lovelies from Italy. If you haven’t seen that, check it out, yo! Or, it Italian, dai un’occhiata a yo! And now that you’re back, think about the simplicity and simple pleasure of a good vermouth and tonic. The gin and tonic, of course, is more well known, but a good vermouth and tonic is in need of more recognition. With the right vermouth, it’s a flavorful, refreshing, fruity, herb-y, treat that more sippers should savor slowly. I’m sad I haven’t yet managed to track down the distillery where Ippocrasso vermouth is made, in Gubbio (a memorable Umbrian town to visit, by the by), but the vermouth itself is singular, both in Boldness Be My Friend in a V&T. As mentioned in the other recipe, this vermouth is built on a base of Cantina Donini red wine (a memorable winery, in Verna, Italy), and has a bold fruitiness, with a delicate overall persona that’s just right for matching with tonic on a sunny late afternoon or early evening, or, if you’re feeling it, even into the evening as it goes along. I suggest a lemon twist as the garnish, by the way. The tartness of the lemon oil plays perfectly with the vermouth and tonic. Try it, and tell me I’m right.
Vermouth and Tonic
1-1/2 ounces Anonima Distillazioni Ippocrasso Vermouth
4 ounces tonic
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a highball or comparable glass three quarters full with ice cubes. Add the vermouth, and then the tonic. Stir.
2. Squeeze the twist over the glass, and then drop it in.
So, the other day I had an urge for a Garibaldi cocktail, and then I had an urge for a Screwdriver (as one does, on both, when the sun in shining, especially, I feel, when the sun is shining on a chilly day during the winter and surrounding months, which always makes me feel that orange juice would be the treat, fresh orange juice naturally, and both of our previously-named drinks are oj-centric, naturally), and so I went to the refrigerated cabinet and checked the orange supply and, dagnabit, it was low. Not empty, mind you, but darn low. Eh gads! I thought. What am I to do? Well, since I was already thinking of the above two drinks, I made a sort-of of hodge-podge of sorts (in the good hodge-podge way) all on my very own, with just a splash of the orange juice (say that nice and slow), and some other players from those drinks, or close to it. The end result (this very drink) ended up quite lovely, full of flavor, with some fruit, some herb, notes. A swell sipper indeed for a type of day and night as described above.
1-1/2 ounces vodka
1-1/4 ounces Martini Bitter Aperitivo
1/2 ounce freshly-squeezed orange juice
2 dashes Fee Brothers Peach bitters
More ice cubes
Orange wedge, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything (except more ice cubes). Shake.
2. Fill a highball or comparable halfway full with other ice cubes. Strain the mix through a fine strainer into the glass and over the ice. Garnish with the wedge. Enjoy, any time of year!