It may surprise no one to know that I’ve tried a fair number of the spirits and liqueurs and such that are available around the world. But still, there are many, many imbibables that I’ve yet to sample (so please, send me any you think I haven’t had. Hah!). Example A until recently was palinca, or pálinka, the fruit brandy made in the Carpathian Basin and thereabouts. I hadn’t even heard about it until my Romanian pal George (who I work with remotely at a giant video game company, but don’t hold that against us) was visiting Seattle and brought a bottle. It wasn’t earmarked for me, at first, but I quickly convinced him that I should go home with it, and he eventually agreed – he also told it was very dangerous stuff and super strong.
After tasting it, I certainly agree with the latter, but not the former. The version he gave me, Palinca de Maramures, or palinca made from plums or prunes, has a kick, no doubt, but also a nice fruit undertone, with a tiny hint of nuts. He also told me that I could never come up with a cocktail using it – this, of course, was a challenge I couldn’t back down from. So, I invented The Ivanel, named after George. I mellowed out the umph of the palinca and added some layers of flavor with a little Cocchi di Torino (a lovely sweet vermouth) and the unbeatable Pierre Ferrand orange curaçao. The end result was good enough that I expect George to come back soon to try it.
1-1/2 ounces Palinca de Maramures
1 ounce Cocchi di Torino vermouth
1/2 ounce Pierre Ferrand orange curaçao
Wide orange twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything but the twist. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the wide orange twist and a salute to Romania.