Amaro/Amari Feed

A Sesame Street Cocktail -- The Negroni

The Negroni is a quintessential classic cocktail. What does it have to do with Sesame Street, the popular long running American educational television show for kids? As a proud Sesame Street "graduate," I can tell you the Count was one of my favorite characters on the show. The Negroni's history also involves a Count. In 1919 Count Camillo Negroni, an Italian nobleman (unlike the Count, he was not modeled off of Bela Lugosi's interpretation of Count Dracula in the movies) asked Franco Scarselli, his bartender, to strengthen his favorite cocktail.  The result became famous around the world.

Negroni1 ounce gin (I used the Botanist)
1 ounce Campari
1 ounce sweet vermouth (ciao Carpano Antica)

Combine in a shaker with ice, stir with Italian flair and grace (or the Count's deliberate cadence), and strain into a chilled glass or a glass with ice. Orange peel garnish optional.

The Negroni is a great gateway cocktail for people who haven't experienced gin or an amaro (bitter liqueur).  Campari, an indispensable ingredient, is a widely available amaro with a vague orange taste. One of the great features of the traditional Negroni is how easy it is to make.  Three ingredients, equal proportions. If you like one ingredient more than the others, you always can adjust the ratio. Although in modern times one typically serves the Negroni in a rocks glass, at the time of its creation it's more likely one would serve it in a smaller, more delicate glass. Unfortunately for Scarselli, Negroni got the credit.

The Negroni lends itself to all sorts of variations.  Substitute bourbon for the gin?  Now you have a Boulevardier.  Reduce and switch the Campari for Fernet Branca?  Now you have a Hanky Panky.  The cocktail can be like what I imagine the Count (the one from Florence, not Sesame Street) was like in real life -- sophisticated, elegant, and powerful.

So how many Negronis will you have? Start counting like the Count from Sesame Street ... one ... two ... ha ha ha ha.


Drinking Like Jersey Boys and Girls -- The Newark

I've never been to Newark (only through it), but I've repeatedly heard it is not one of New Jersey's highlights.  That didn't stop Jim Meehan and John Deragon at PDT in New York City from creating a cocktail in its honor. The Newark is not far removed from a Manhattan or a Brooklyn.  Tony Soprano would like the Newark because most or all of its ingredients come from New Jersey and Italy.  Am I good with that?  Fuggedaboudit.

Newark2 ounces Laird's apple brandy or applejack
1 ounce sweet vermouth
.25 ounces Fernet Branca
.25 ounces Luxardo maraschino liqueur

Combine in a shaker with ice, stir with the resoluteness of being Jersey tough, and strain into a chilled glass (preferably a coupe).

Laird's, which originated in New Jersey, makes apple brandy and applejack.  The two spirits aren't very different.  When you compare apples to apples, it's about exploiting different boiling and freezing points. In modern times Laird's applejack is a mix of apple brandy and other spirits. Add the sweet vermouth (most of which comes from Italy) and the Fernet Branca and Luxardo maraschino liqueur (both of which come from Italy), and you have one great cocktail. Want some accompanying music from some real Jersey boys?  I suggest Frank Sinatra (you might associate him with New York, but he was born and raised in New Jersey) or Bon Jovi.

As anyone who's seen the musical or movie Jersey Boys would tell you, big girls (and boys) don't cry.  They drink Newarks.


Clickbait Cocktail -- The Naked And Famous

Here's a sexy looking drink.
Here's a sexy looking drink.

Made you look!  That's what clickbait online is all about. Although Joaquin Símo at Death & Company in New York City created the cocktail, the Alley Cat Lounge in Savannah introduced me to the Naked and Famous. The name caught my eye (of course), but the ingredients sold me on it.

.75 ounces mezcal
.75 ounces yellow Chartreuse
.75 ounces Aperol
Juice from 1/2 lime

Combine everything in a shaker with ice, shake with the evanescent thrill of seeing an intriguing headline, and strain into a chilled glass (preferably a coupe).

As The Naked and Famous uses equal proportions and includes Chartreuse (there are two types -- yellow and green) and lime juice, it's a variation on the Last Word.  However, it doesn't taste like a Last Word. Mezcal, which I've described in other posts such as the Racketeer as tequila's smokier cousin, brings some heat to the drink, and the yellow Chartreuse and Aperol make it smooth.  Aperol is a widely available orange tinged amaro that really isn't bitter.  It's a component of other drinks such as the Part-Time Lover.

Unlike most clickbait, the Naked and Famous really delivers.  So cocktail click away!


Et Tu, Cocktail? -- The Ides Of March

The Ides of March refers to March 15.  That's the day Roman senators stabbed and assassinated Julius Caesar.  In the eponymous play by William Shakespeare, Caesar does not heed the soothsayer who warns him to "beware the Ides of March." Shakespeare did not create the Ides of March.  That honor goes to my fellow cocktail enthusiast Michael Bounds.

Veni, vidi, bibi (I came, I saw, I drank).
Veni, vidi, bibi (I came, I saw, I drank).

1.5 ounces bourbon
1 ounce Aperol
.75 ounces blood orange syrup (see below)
Juice from 1/8 lemon

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with the ferocity of stabbing your mortal enemy, and strain into a chilled glass. Lemon twist garnish optional.

The Ides of March is a nice mix of American (bourbon) and Italian (Aperol). Aperol is a lighter, orange flavored, and easily accessible amaro used in other drinks such as the Part-Time Lover.  The blood orange syrup can be trickier.  There are a number of ways to make it.  I must confess that when I was in the middle of making the syrup, I forgot how Bounds made it, so I improvised.  I used the same method as I use to make glorious grenadine. If you have to use processed blood orange juice for the syrup, see how sweet it is and adjust the proportions as needed.

Unlike Brutus, who betrays Caesar (his recognition of Brutus is what sparks the line "et tu, Brute" ("and you, Brutus?")), the Ides of March will not betray your taste buds or your liver. As Brits like James Bond might say (especially amusing because he has a license to kill -- get it?), cheers!


Deceptive Drinking -- The Part-Time Lover

"Part Time-Lover" was a huge hit for the great Stevie Wonder.  Truth be told, if you're going to talk about 1980s pop songs with the word "lover" in the title, I prefer "Easy Lover" from Phil Collins and Philip Bailey (from Earth, Wind, and Fire; he also happened to sing backup on "Part-Time Lover").  Stevie Wonder didn't create this cocktail.  Instead, the Part-Time Lover is a creation from Jon Weimorts in Los Angeles.

Part-Time Lover1.5 ounces blanco tequila
.5 ounces Aperol
.5 ounces elderflower liqueur or super simple syrup
Juice from 1/2 lemon
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with the passion of a (you can figure out the metaphor, right?), and strain into a chilled glass.  Lemon garnish optional.

Just as the catchy upbeat vibe of the song belies its sad substance, the smooth taste of the Part-Time Lover belies its strength.  The tequila provides the subtle kick beneath the bitterwsweet Aperol (a lighter, less potent amaro with an orange taste) and the sweeter elderflower liqueur, e.g. St. Germain (a key ingredient in the Flower of Normandy), or super simple syrup. Weimorts uses elderflower liqueur because it adds more flavor to the Part-Time Lover.  If you don't have or want to get that, super simple syrup does quite well.

Have a full-time fun cocktail and drink a Part-Time Lover.


Unsung Cocktail Heroes -- Bitters, Vermouth, and Liqueurs

Reading about unsung cocktail heroes is good, but why read when you can listen?  Eric Kozlik, the CEO of Modern Bar Cart, interviewed me for his podcast.  It was a great experience. Here's our conversation about bitters, vermouth, and liqueurs (it's episode #8).        

Modern Bar Cart podcast 2Eric has interviewed a lot of really interesting people about some great cocktail subjects, so I encourage you to listen to the other episodes. I've learned a lot by listening to them. You probably will, too.  The podcast is a wonderful example of connecting over cocktails.  Ms. Wulf Cocktail Den and I met Eric at the Tales of the Cocktail conference in New Orleans, and we reconnected at an event in Washington, D.C. earlier this year.

Our podcast episode (you can listen below) covers a lot of topics such as how James Bond disrupted the Martini, and what I would order if I could drink with my late grandfathers. We also discussed general cocktail categories such as amari (bitter liqueurs), and specific cocktails like the Manhattan, the Ward 8, and the Derby.

If you listen to the episode, keep this in mind -- I wasn't kidding.  I have walked alone through the yard of a maximum security federal prison.  No, I was not incarcerated. Want to the hear the story? Buy me a good cocktail.


Across The Globe -- The Intercontinental

See the world through a drink.  Traveling to other countries makes you realize how good you have it (I'm speaking to you, my fellow Americans), and you'll realize there are many things that unite us -- like a high quality cocktail.  The Intercontinental is one of many examples.  Thanks to Imbibe magazine for introducing me to it.

Intercontinental1 ounce brandy
1 ounce Averna
.5 ounces Luxardo maraschino liqueur

Combine in a shaker with ice, stir with the sexy and sophisticated demeanor of a world traveler, and strain into a chilled glass.  Orange garnish optional.

The original Intercontinental recipe calls for Cognac, but use whatever brandy you prefer.  Keep in mind all Cognac is brandy, but not all brandy is Cognac (it is all torched Dutch grapes).  Brandy can come from anywhere, e.g. the pisco in a Pisco Sour comes from South America, but Averna and Luxardo maraschino liqueur only come from Italy.

I've had the good fortune to travel to various parts of the world, and I've embarrassed my wife, aka Ms. Wulf Cocktail Den, in many countries.  We believe in trying the local stuff.  We've had good experiences, e.g. Mekhong, a Thai "whiskey" (it is the base of the Mekhong Manhattan), and bad, e.g. Turkish beer.  Either way we're richer for the experience.

Have passport, have liver, will travel.

 


Bombs Away -- The Brown Bomber

Brown bomber 1The drink is not explosive or dangerous, unless you have too many of them.  It is a tribute to Joe Louis, the late American heavyweight boxer.  Known as the Brown Bomber, Louis was the reigning champion for 140 consecutive months in the 1930s and 1940s, and he had 23 knockouts in 27 title fights.  Talk about staggering numbers (literally, if you were in the ring with him).  Jim Meehan at PDT in New York City created the Brown Bomber, and this is my variation.

2 ounces bourbon or rye
.75 ounces dry vermouth
.5 ounces Averna or Campari

Brown Bomber 2Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir with the deliberation of of a boxer dismantling their opponent, and strain into a chilled glass.  Lemon twist garnish optional.

Most versions of the Brown Bomber call for bourbon or rye, Lillet Blanc (a French aperitif), and Suze (a Swiss gentian root liqueur).  I substituted dry vermouth for the Lillet Blanc, and Averna or Campari for the Suze because I like those liquors much more than I like Suze.

The Brown Bomber isn't far removed from a Boulevardier in that both cocktails have a whiskey, vermouth, and an amaro.  Similarly, the combination of whiskey and dry vermouth is reminiscent of a Scofflaw. If you want a boxing relating spirit that's sweeter but just as strong, try my pugilecello

The Brown Bomber isn't sweet. But like its namesake, it is powerful and classy.


Argentina and Broadway -- The Eva Peron

Eva Peron 1Eva Peron, better known as Evita, was and still is a controversial figure in Argentina's history.  She ascended the social ladder to become the wife of Juan Peron, the President of Argentina in the late 1940s and early 1950s.  In addition, she's the subject of the eponymous Broadway musical (there's also a surprisingly good film adaptation starring Madonna and Antonio Banderas).  I did not discover this cocktail in Argentina, but on the Kindred Cocktails and Imbibe magazine sites.

1 ounce Fernet Branca
1 ounce Barrow's Intense ginger liqueur (see below)
1 ounce sweet vermouth
Juice from 1/8 lime

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with the passion of dancing the tango, and strain into a chilled glass.

Eva Peron 2Argentines love Fernet Branca, perhaps because so many of them have Italian heritage.  In my opinion no Argentina related cocktail would be complete without it. I've had the good fortune to travel to Buenos Aires, and I had many great experiences there, e.g. dancing the tango with Ms. Cocktail Den in a milonga (tango hall).  If you're interested in Evita related sites, the Museo Evita is informative, and you can see her family's mausoleum in the fascinating Recoleta Cemetery.

The original Eva Peron recipe calls for adding a couple of ounces of ginger beer.  There's nothing wrong with that.  I simply wanted a cocktail that, like most other cocktails in the Den, is alcohol forward and contains no carbonation.  Also, the original recipe doesn't specify Barrow's Intense (full disclosure -- I am a small investor), but I prefer it because it has a cleaner and stronger ginger taste that anything else on the market.

Don't cry for me Wulf Den drinkers -- just have an Eva Peron.


Stealthy And Unexpected -- A Thief In The Night

Steal some fun! Commit larceny on your liver!  A Thief In The Night does both.  It has nothing to do with the Bible passage from which the phrase "a thief in the night" comes.  Instead, the A Thief In The Night is a creation from the people at Larceny Bourbon, who also created the Inside Job. Thanks to my bourbon aficionado friend Chuck for mentioning it to me.  I slightly adapted the recipe.

A Thief In The Night2 ounces bourbon
1 ounce Averna
Juice from 1/4 lemon
.5 ounces honey syrup (see below)

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with the intensity of a burglar's pounding heartbeat, and strain into a chilled glass.

Averna is an excellent Sicilian amaro.  It is becoming easier to get in the United States.  I think it's quite good on its own, and it's a key component of cocktails such as the Lupara, the Amaro Amore, and the Lupo Voodoo.  As a practical matter, the A Thief In The Night essentially is a Midnight Train with honey syrup instead of super simple syrup.

So how do you make the honey syrup?  It's so easy even I can do it.  Heat equal parts water and honey in a saucepan over medium heat, stir until the honey dissolves (the mixture will retain the color), remove from the heat source, and then let the syrup cool to room temperature (wait at least one hour).

After you have A Thief In The Night, some of your liver cells and brain cells will be missing.  Better put their pictures on a milk carton.