Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Cocktail on the Back Deck

The weather is improving. Notice, I did not say something stupid like "this weather rocks" or "hello fall!!!!!!" Each day the evening heat relents around 5:30, whereas just a month ago 5:30 felt like hottest part of the day. What does this mean? You can start venturing outdoors to enjoy a drink.

Research by science geeks tells us that our taste buds are in a constant state of evolution. For instance, that chicken parmesan you loved from Russell's Marina Grill ten years ago, may not taste as good today. Or olives may now be one of life's great pleasures, whereas just a few years back you hated them.

I first had Campari in the late spring of 2005. Some friends and I were in Venice doing what all young Americans do in Europe: hopping from one bar to another. Hell, Hemingway made a fortune and wrote some pretty good books perfecting that model. We had just crossed a canal, but not the Grand one, and happened upon a bar carved out of the side of the building with a lively scene. We popped in and were promptly handed what the bartender called a "Venetian": Campari, white wine, and a twist of citrus. I thought it was wretched at the time, bitter like a teenager who sketches all day and as abrasive as sandpaper.

Fast forward five years and although I cant explain why Campari is firmly in my drinking rotation. I love it with fresh squeezed orange juice or with a slice of lemon and a jolt of club soda. I can recall when it happened, which helps explain why. While interviewing Patrick Van Hoorebeck at Domenica for an article, he ordered up two "Camparis, as zey would have in Venice" to go along with the assortment of meats, cheeses, and olives on the table.

A bite of salty cheese, a piece of mortadella, and a sip of something refreshingly bitter and it was at that moment, Campari made sense.

The classic Campari cocktail is the Negroni. I mess around with a lot of things, but if a drink withstands the Depression, Fascism, World War II, the Summer of Love, Pet Rocks, and New Kids on the Block, I leave it alone. This is the perfect drink before a big meal or in place of one.

1 oz Campari
1 oz Dry Gin
1 oz Martini & Rossi vermouth rouge (alternatively called at times sweet vermouth)

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with crushed ice. Shake vigorously, and strain into a chilled glass. Garnish with an orange peel.


Anonymous said...

Great post. Nicely written. Funny. One question: would vodka be an acceptable substitute for gin.

- Brian Moore

Rene said...

Interesting question.

One assuming you are who you say you are, not certain you are serious. If you aren't serious, the answer is Ft. Ticonderoga.

If you are, the first answer is no. But the second layer of answer is gin is just vodka with botanical added, so perhaps. But then it is another drink.

If you are neither serious, nor not serious, I'd imagine you are three martinis into a marathon watching of early 2004 Lindsay Lohan films, in that case just drink the vodka, straight.

fmcgmccllc said...

Have loved Campari for years, yes in the minority. I am so pleased that with the cagey wine and spirits here in China, Campari lives. Have not tried the Negroni as I gave up all hard liquor as they said it made wrinkles. Hmmm.

New Orleans Modern Drunkard said...

A Negroni is a great cocktail and is one of Anthony Bourdain's finest cocktails. One way to add a little zip to it is to make a Naughty Negroni:
1oz of Campari
1oz of Sweet Vermouth
1/2oz of Gin
4oz Moscato D'Asti Sparkling Wine

Mix Campari, Sweet Vermouth, & Gin in a shaker filled with Ice. Shake & Strain into a Champagne Flute and top off with Moscato. Garnish with Orange Peel.

Its an interesting sweeter version. Let me know what you think.