I’ve been lucky in life, in that I’ve had a fairly large share of amari (the Italian digestif of herbally goodness everyone loves now), and been a fan for a while, and have brought a couple neat obscure ones back from Italy. I feel like I’m bragging – please don’t throw a tin can at me! Here’s one thing that will balance it out. I haven’t had a bottle of Amaro Lucano in the house before! Before now, that is (hah)! I’d tasted it before, and liked it, but until a bottle showed up, as they sometimes do, I hadn’t spent any real time with this particular amaro.
If you don’t know, Lucano has been around since 1894, when a well-known cookie baker (really! I love these stories) named Pasquale Vena blended up mysterious herbs and spices and boom, deliciousness. It really kicked up the fame, though, when in 1900 it became the drink of choice to ancient ruling family the House of Savoy, whose crest is on the bottle. Neat, right? The amaro is a tiny smidge to the right on the sweetness scale for amari, with a strong caramel-ness, though containing a rich bitterness as well, and nice floral, citrus, and spice accents.
Anyway, it’s the kind of thing you tend to have after dinner, and not what you think of as a summer treat. Which is why I challenged myself to make a summer drink with it – because I am like that, and because I like bitter sodas, and because what’s the world for if you don’t challenge yourself? All that! So, I paired it up with some usual and some unusual suspects, tried a little of this, and a little of that, and came up with the below. It’s effervescent, it’s got a host of herb and spice and citrus notes, and it’s darn refreshing and flavorful all at once, like a bubbly Tilt-a-While for your tongue. Try it – and then thank the Vena family. And me (well, why not?).
1. Add the gin, Amaro Lucano, Grand Marnier, and Scrappy’s to a mixing glass. Stir well.
2 Fill a highball or comparable glass three-quarters full with ice cubes. Pour the mix from step 1 into the glass over the top.
3. Top with soda water. Stir briefly. Garnish with the mint sprig.
PS: Yes, that’s a Don Ho glass! I am very lucky indeed.