November 20, 2020
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.
May 29, 2020
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.
August 3, 2018
The Americano is a summertime favorite around my back porch, and should be one around yours, too. It’s been consumed as a warm-weather aperitivo for well over a hundred years, tracing its history back to at least 1860, and is a snap to make (you don’t want to be sweating drink-construction too much when the heat is on). Also, if you’ve been dreaming of a vacation, but just haven’t been able to take one yet, this can help transport you to Italy, in your mind, at least. Which is better than nothing!
The Americano (using the recipe from Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz)
2 ounces Campari
2 ounces sweet vermouth
Chilled club soda
Orange slice, for garnish
1. Fill a highball glass three-quarters full with ice cubes. Add the Campari and vermouth. Stir gently.
2. Add club soda to the glass until the glass is almost full. Garnish with an orange slice.
November 7, 2017
Funny enough (in the curious meaning of the word), though I’m a serious devotee of the television shows Lewis and Endeavor, and a little-less-but-still-enthusiastic about the show they come out of, Inspector Morse, even with all that, I haven’t read much of the original books by Colin Dexter that inspired them all. For no good reason! Lately, though, I’ve caught up on my Morse reading, a bit at least. Including reading The Riddle of the Third Mile, the sixth in the series, and in typical fashion it’s clever, smart, fun, and driven by the personalities of Morse and his sergeant Lewis. There are corpses, pints, Oxford, puzzles, and all the goods, including an intriguing drink menu (!) when one character stops at a naughty club in London. Check out this line-up (I never knew Cointreau was an aphrodisiac. And pulse-quickening Campari!):
She made a note on the pad she held. ‘Would you like me to sit with you?’
‘Yes, I would.’
‘You’d have to buy me a drink.’
She pointed to the very bottom of the card:
• Flamenco Revenge – a marriage of green-eyed Chartreuse with aphrodisiac Cointreau.
• Soho Wallbanger – a dramatic confrontation of voluptuous Vodka with a tantalizing taste of Tia Maria.
• Eastern Ecstasy – an irresistible alchemy of rejuvenating Gin and pulse-quickening Campari.
–Colin Dexter, The Riddle of the Third Mile
September 1, 2017
I recently was lucky enough to have a day where I could make the claim to luckiest person around (admittedly, I haven’t checked with every single person worldwide to test this particular proclamation, but hey, I still believe). On that day I was able to share the stage with my pal, genius novelist Andrew Sean Greer, and talk to him about his latest book LESS, while making him a few cocktails. LESS, if you don’t know, is the book of 2017, gaining raves from near and far – with people like Christopher Buckley saying in the NY Times, “Andrew Sean Greer’s Less is excellent company. It’s no less than bedazzling, bewitching and be-wonderful.” And they’re all well-deserved, because the book is charming, creative, funny, touching, and detailed in locations around the world with so much pizzazz that it’s a wonder Andy isn’t being hired by every city to write about their city. If that makes sense! Buy it now! Anyway, I’m rambling, as one does about great books, but to get back to the booze, for said lucky-day-for-A.J. I made up two drinks for Andy and I to sip while talking, naming both after characters in LESS. This first is named after the Italian translator of Less’ (oh, Arthur Less is the main character in the book, a novelist) latest book, and in honor of her and the Italian section of the book, contains all Italian ingredients.
The Translation of Giuliana Monti
1-1/2 ounces Purus organic Italian vodka
1 ounce Donini Dono di Dio aged vin santo
3/4 ounce Campari
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full of cracked ice. Add everything but the twist. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the twist. Drink while reading LESS.
A Note: Donini Dono di Dio aged vin santo (vin santo being the “holy wine” of Italy, a lush dessert wine) is made by the fine folks at Donini winery, one of the finest in the universe, located in Verna, Italy, in my favorite area of Italy. If you can’t get it, I feel it’s time for you to take a vacation. Or, sub in another vin santo.
March 10, 2017
This favorite of mine recently popped up in conversation with a pal-of-mine (about orange things, funny enough), and it reminded me just how much I like it. Like it? I love it! It’s a wonderfully-balanced mix – if I can say so without sounding too full-of-myself, since I created it – with some ingredients that you don’t naturally think would go together in dark rum and Campari. But thanks to the edge-smoothing triple sec (I’d say go with homemade, if you can – there’s a recipe in Luscious Liqueurs) and the peacemaker, Perychaud’s bitters, everything plays nice. It’s always tasty fun to re-discover an old liquid friend. And this is one of my besties.
The Crimson Slippers, from Dark Spirits
2 ounces dark rum
1 ounce Campari
1/2 ounce triple sec
Dash of Peychaud’s bitters
Lime slice for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the rum, Campari, triple sec, and bitters. Shake well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass.
3. Squeeze the lime slice over the glass and drop it in without any mystery.
February 24, 2017
There’s no need to yell at me – I realize with the title here, I’m nearly breaking my own soapbox (to stretch a metaphor to the breaking point), or favorite soapbox, as admittedly there are many I like to stand upon. But this one, it’s the one where bartenders make up new drinks and then just name them some bastardization of an existing classic drink. C’mon bartenders, be creative! Though, in this case, bartender heal thyself, as this drink name is partially a play on the classic Negroni. But it’s also a play on my favorite Italian winery, Donini, and really, The Doninoni is so much fun to say! And changed enough (as opposed to, oh, the numerous Strawberry Margaritas I made in college, or something like the Appletini for gawd’s sake) to make me not too egregious, right? Right! If you disagree, drink two of the below and call me in the morning.
1-1/2 ounces Nat’s gin (I used the gin wife Nat made at Scratch, cause she did such a good job – read more about making gin at Scratch)
1-1/2 ounces Donini Tarragoni (if you sadly can’t get this, another slightly-dry but full-bodied Umbrian red could suffice)
1-1/2 ounces Campari
1/2 ounce grenadine (go homemade or go home)
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything. Shake well.
2. Add a few good ice cubes to an Old Fashioned or comparable glass. Strain the mix into the glass and over the ice.
December 30, 2016
Bubbly cocktails are good all the year round. This is an incontrovertible fact. However, if you wanted to make the point that bubbly cocktails are even finer this time of the year, because of the elegant effervescence they bring to the season, well, I wouldn’t argue. Which is why today I’m sipping this Italian-inspired sparkler from Champagne Cocktails. Because I don’t like arguing. No, no, it’s because it’s a darn tasty drink, a bubbly number that’s a little different, intriguing, yummy-licious.
The Pensiero, from Champagne Cocktails
1 ounces freshly squeezed orange juice
3/4 ounces Punt e’ Mes
1/2 ounce Campari
1/2 ounce simple syrup
Chilled Brachetto d’Acqui
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the orange juice, Punt e Mes, Campari, and simple syrup. Shake thoughtfully.
2. Strain the mixture into a flute glass. Top with Brachetto d’Acqui. Garnish with the lemon twist.