You may not be aware (knowing you, you probably are), but this is the last Friday of Spring, 2023 – the first day of Summer being next Wednesday, the 21st. So, Spring (initial-capping here to give it some personalizing, dontcha know) today is at the end of its tether, so to speak, which means it’s the ideal day for this drink. Which was originally named after a book by Margery Allingham, but which I believe shouldn’t be relegated to only being sipped when writing posts around books. Not that books aren’t dreamy dreams (my favorite things are books, after a few other more favorite things), but this dandy combination of gin, amari, and grenadine is such a sprightly, amiable combination, that it should be had more often – unless you’re reading books all the time, which I, now that I think about it, am, then you’d be having it more. But I digress. You should go with a nice, London-style gin – I’m with reliable and reliably yummy Boodles here – and the amari should be if you can get it, Amaro di Toscana (which has a wild boar on the bottle), which is a well-balanced member of the family, meaning between bitter and sweet, rich in herbally flavor though lighter in syrup-i-ness than some on the tongue, and made from 27 herbs and spices growing in Tuscany. The final ingredient, the grenadine, you should make yourself, because it’s better than storebought and I expect better from you. A homemade grenadine recipe to assist you can be found at the end of the As Luck Would Have It recipe. The one funny thing about the name? It’s sounds like having one would be the last drink. The end of the tether and all. But my guess is you’ll want at least two of these. So, you know, don’t be completely literal.
It’s the middle of September! Hard to believe my friends. Time, it flies by like a flock of Peregrine Falcons (meaning: fast)! Not only are we in the back half of 2022, but we are also nearing October, which for me means fall trips to Italy (I hope for you, too), and truffles, and pasta, and art, and well, you know. It also means Italian drinks, wines, limoncellos, grappas, Italian beers, and of course amari. It’s funny, in a time flying way, and in a “sometimes things do change for the better” way, how many more of the latter, the amari (and other digestif-y and aperitif-y Italian brothers and sisters, not the grappas, sadly), are available now in the US than when I first made this here drink, Good Luck in Pisticci, like 7 years ago. Amari explosion! And if you expand that time frame (short in the overall realm of time) to the first time I went to Italy when I had my first amaro (I believe it was Montenegro), like 25ish years ago, well, it’s a big bang style explosion! An herbal, bitter and bittersweet, and lovely explosion!
Without which, I couldn’t make this drink, itself herbally rich and flavorful, but also citrus-y, bubbly, and jolly, in a way! It leans heavily on a particular amaro, Amaro Lucano created in 1894 by cookie baker Pasquale Vena (an aside: amari and chocolate chip cookies are a pleasant pairing) using an herbs and spices. Eventually, it became the sipper of choice to ancient ruling family the House of Savoy, which is neat, and it’s swell to sip solo, but also swell here with a few WA ingredients, Kur gin (delicious – read more of me talking about it) and Scrappy’s Grapefruit bitters (if you aren’t aware of how awesome Scrappy’s bitters are, then you have a wonderful future finding out), and classic orange stalwart Grand Marnier, and soda, and mint. Good Luck indeed!
It was just hours ago (a week’s worth of hours, that is) that I was sipping some Stambecco and Soda, and in the post about it right here on the Spiked Punch, I went into some detail about Stambecco amaro (be sure to read up), which is made curiously-enough from maraschino cherries, along with a host of botanicals, spices, magic, and goats (well . . .) like any good amaro. It’s a very singular kind of a sipper, tasty, sure, but singular. While this drives it towards being something that’s swell solo, and (as demonstrated in said earlier post) with soda, I couldn’t wait when it showed up to try it mixed with a few other choice pals in a cocktail. Some experimenting of this and of that and here we are drinking How the Rogue Roar’d.
Oh, first, let me say that this cocktail isn’t roguish in the manner of a 17th century thief boosting a coach and four on a dusty road at midnight. But it does roar with a very layered flavor, and has a roguish (the twinkly-eyed lovable rogue way) combination of ingredients. But, mostly, I’ve wanted to have a drink called this forever (it’s a line from Henry IV, Part I, as well as the name of a Shakespeare and Hathaway episode), and here is one that finally deserves this very moniker. So, what’s in it? Stambecco, naturally! And, Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin with Sardinian Citrus. You can read more about this gin treat in the The Suspended Palace with Drumshanbo Gin recipe, but I’ll say here that it boasts a host of regularly-used and rare botanicals and citrus (as well as Gunpowder Tea – which is quite roguish, if not as explosive as you might guess at first read). And, our rogue also features dry vermouth of the Dolin variety (probably needs no explanation), as well as a dash of the delectable Scrappy’s Orange bitters, and, to top it all off, a strawberry. Stambecco goesy, as you might guess, well with cherries, but the strawberry seemed so fitting a top hat for this drink, as there are oodles of fruit and spice notes, while maintaining a dry nature that the slightly sweet strawberry bounces nicely off of, and if that’s not enough, it’s April, so we can dream of summer easily, which means dreaming of strawberries. So, rogue, roar with this cocktail!
I should come up with a snazzier name here (at least “The S & S”) but sometimes keeping things simple is lovely, too! And, sometimes, when spring is starting to gently become an actual season, with flowers blooming, and love in the air, all of that goodness, simplicity in drinks is nice – especially when they’re flavorful and refreshing and dolloped with a drop of luck. In this case, my luck (sorry pals!), as I was lucky enough recently to receive a bottle of Stambecco amaro in the post. And what a beautiful bottle it is, I have to stay first off, a real work of dappled design art, from the glass texture to the goats (“Stambecco” is the name of the long-horned mountain goat roaming the Italian alps) to the text curvature to the word “Italy” in glass around the slope from neck to jar. Just lovely!
Of course, it wouldn’t be as lovely if what was contained in said bottle wasn’t tasty – luckily (again, springtime luck!) it is. Stambecco is a member of the amari family, that grouping of Italian digestif-y numbers known for being a bit bitter, but fills a niche all its own. Lighter brown in color than most (with just a hint of red), it also is intriguingly infused with maraschino cherries, along with a host of 30 botanicals including sweet and bitter oranges, coriander, marjoram, oregano, artemista, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, gentian, cinchona, rhubarb, and more, all magically combined (some call this distilling) in Piedmont, north Italy. The mix of botanicals is very friendly, very lower-mountain-field-y, with a light touch on bitter when compared to many of its amaro siblings, with a citrus and stone fruit aroma, and a singular taste where the cherries come even more into play, along with spices and an echo of nuttiness (those maraschino cherries again). Yummy stuff! And a mixture I’m excited to play around with more in cocktails, but sometimes, one wants to keep it simple, as mentioned above. So, here, today, this early April afternoon, I’m just mixing my Stambecco with soda, and topping it off with a Hotel Starlino Maraschino cherry (which also came in the post!), which is a darn delicious specimen of cherry (and one matured in their own juices – avoid those cherries that aren’t!), the ideal topper for this bubbly treat.
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