Is it 7pm yet? If so, then I can start thinking about what cocktail to mix up tonight. I find that I’m not the only one of my friends to have moved away from a pre-dinner glass of wine, towards the harder stuff. “I love vodka” was not something I heard that much, up until a few years ago, yet now it’s something I hear disturbingly often. It was definitely before Mad Men, so that can’t be it. Whatever the reason, cocktails have become a part of our life. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that two of my neighbors in Monti had cocktail parties on their terraces last night.
But one thing does sort of carry through from my wine days. While we don’t go so far as to drink our martinis with our steak, I do try to think about what we are eating, and pair the tastes in some way with the menu that follows. Which got me thinking about Italian cocktails. What kind of cocktails do you serve if you’re cooking Italian?
Here are some of the classics:
Lately this is my go-to cocktail. When I’m at home, it’s easy. When I’m out, it’s no-risk (hard drink to mess up). The drink dates to the early 1900’s, when a certain Count Negroni, a Florentine aristocrat, asked the waiter in Cafe Rivoire to up the ante in his Americano (see below). So he replaced the soda water with gin, and voila’!
There are a few ways to make a Negroni (shaken, stirred, in a cocktail glass, over rocks). Here’s my favorite:
1 oz. Gin
1 oz. Campari
1 oz. Martini & Rossi Vermouth Rosso
Fill small rocks glass with ice. Add Gin, Campari and Vermouth. Stir. Garnish with orange or mandarin slice.
I have little use for the Americano, which always seems like a wimpy Negroni. But a lot of my wimpy friends prefer it. It was originally called a Milano/Torino, since the Camapri is from Milan, and the vermouth from Torino. At some point, around the 1900’s it was named after Americans, who seemed to order it a lot, while in Europe, drinking it up during prohibition.
1 oz Campari
1 oz Martini & Rossi Vermouth Rosso
Pour Campari & vermouth in rocks glass. Fill with ice, top with soda and garnish.
I can’t believe that it took me untill this year to discover the Negroni Sbagliato. Mona, at the American Academy, introduced me to this at the small bar there. In this case it’s just a slightly wimpier version of a Negroni, this time with the gin being replaced with Prosecco. So, slightly fizzy, but not quite as strong. Fun.
1 oz Campari
1 oz Sweet Vermouth
1 oz Prosecco
Pour Campari and vermouth in a rocks glass. Fill with ice and top with prosecco.
Once you leave Campari territory (and I didn’t even mention the obvious Campari & Soda) , in terms of Italian cocktails, there is really only the group of cocktails based on prosecco with something. The most famous is, of course, the Bellini. Bellinis are often what gets served at big cocktail parties in Rome, with waters passing around flutes of mediocre prosecco doused with bottled peach juice. Yuck. But a well-made Bellini – which was invented at Harry’s bar in Venice – is made from fresh peach puree and Prosecco. So, if you’re going to try your hand at this one, only attempt it with the freshest, ripest peaches. And if you do order it while out, do so only in season, and hope for the best.
Peel, pit and puree two fresh peaches.
In a champagne flute add 1/3 peach puree to two third’s prosecco, adding prosecco slowly and stirring gently.
The strawberry version of a Bellini, which I find not only prettier, but tastes better too.
I’ve only started hearing about this drink recently, and it seems to be what the ‘younger’ Romans are ordering these days. This was confirmed yesterday, by Sophie, my daughter. While she prefers her Prosecco straight, all her friends have it ‘spritzed.’ From what I can figure out, the idea comes from up north, in the Veneto. It’s prosecco or white wine, poured in a rocks glass, with a dash of something bitter like Campari or Aperol added, topped with soda water and filled with ice. Usually garnished with an orange slice. It actually sounds pretty good to me…
Are their any I’ve missed? Anyone have a favorite Italian cocktail? FYI, next week I’ll be talking about grappa, and some unconventional cocktails I’ve made over the years it.