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.
December 9, 2016
Admittedly, I’m usually (as anyone who knows me knows, or, even if you don’t actually know me in an in-person way, if you read this blog you probably know) a staunch soapboxer about drinks-that-borrow-names-from-other-drinks. Meaning, I think a drink name should be as creative as a drink, and that even a small ingredient change needs a new name. So, inis, ritas, olitans, all those, make me sad, as does the recent proliferation of Negroni names. Jaysus, bartenders, be creative!
However, this Dry Negroni is pretty darn swell, and so I can step off my soapbox while I’m sipping. For some reason I’d never even thought to try the subbing of dry for sweet vermouth, cause I am silly. And, I picked up the recipe and idea from rollicking Rob Chirico’s new book, Not My Mother’s Kitchen: Rediscovering Italian-American Cooking Through Stories and Recipes! Rob has a host of good books you should pick up, and his latest is both funny and tasty. It up-ends the hoary tradition of so many cookbooks, where the cook/writer has learned the craft at the side of some family elder, because it turns out Rob’s mother was a terrible cook, and he had to learn in spite of it. It’ll have you laughing and have you making delish dishes all at once, thanks to the combination of funny stories and helpful recipes, the whole of which is written in a wonderful convivial style. There’s even a short chapter on Italian libations, and that’s where I picked up this recipe.
Dry Negroni, from Not My Mother’s Kitchen
1 ounce gin
1 ounce dry vermouth
1 ounce Campari
Orange slice, for garnish
1. Fill a mixing glass or cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add the gin, dry vermouth, and Campari. Stir well.
2. Fill a cold old-fashioned glass halfway full with ice cubes. Strain the drink into the glass. Garnish with the orange slice.
October 7, 2016
It’s only fitting to have legendary Italian favorite Campari as a core ingredient in a drink that’s all about love for those days, sometimes in September, sometimes in October, which bring a more summery-ness to fall – extra sun, an extra digit or two on the temperature, or just that feeling summer has. Why Campari? Well, Campari, if you didn’t know, is all about love. Created in the 1800s in Italy by Gaspare Campari, at first Campari was only available throughout Italy, where it became very popular. Then, Gaspare’s son Davide was born, grew up, grew to love the liqueur named after his family, and starting working at their café, the Café Campari in Milan, where he spread the legend of the liqueur. One day, when the stars where shining through the bottles filled with red in the shop, Lina Cavalieri walked through the doors. Lina was a popular opera singer, and she and Davide got along smashingly, and they started to become more than friends, if you know what I mean. Then Lina had to move to Nice, France, for an opera part. Davide was crushed, but had a light bulb moment – why not begin exporting Campari, starting with Nice? Then he would be able to bring the liqueur to those in need around the world, and also be near his lady love. That, friends, is a summer-y story, and this is a summer-y drink that’s ideal for fall (or anytime, really).
The Last Gasp of Summer
3/4 ounces simple syrup
1-1/2 ounces Campari
3 ounces chilled Prosecco (I went with Zonin Prosecco White edition here, cause of its floral fruitiness, which matches everything swell here)
1. Add 3 of your strawberries and simple syrup to a cocktail shaker. Muddle well, but carefully.
2. Fill the cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the Campari. Shake well.
3. Strain through a fine strainer into an enchantingly summerlike goblet. Top with the Prosecco. Garnish with that last strawberry (put a little slice into it, so it fits cozily on the rim).
April 15, 2016
Some days, some nights, some mornings even, you just want a good drink, like you want to see an old friend, to just talk happily with, without getting all serious and pompous and braggy and posturing and . . . oh, all that stuff that old friends don’t usually do, but so many people do, sadly. The Negroni, now, of course is a superstar, with many variations that are boringly named (really – people, we don’t call the Negroni a Gin-icano, or a Gin Americano, etc, etc), and people all over-board and over-boorish about it. But to me it’s still comfortable like an old friend, and some days, like today, I just feel like sipping one, without all the accompanying sass.
1 ounce gin
1 ounce Campari
1 ounce sweet vermouth
Orange slice, or twist – go crazy
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add the three amici. Stir well.
2. Fill an Old Fashioned or comparable glass three-quarters up with ice cubes. Strain the mix over the glass. Garnish away. Enjoy, yo.
PS: Some people serve a Negroni up. I wouldn’t turn that down. However, I often want it over ice, the way you’ll get it in the Italian countryside.