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Spending a week in Milano with Brian and Jeff was fabulous.  Seeing amazingly beautiful art and architecture satisfied my soul—the Last Supper really is like nothing you’ve ever seen before.  Eating delicious things like fried meat-stuffed olives (yes, you read that right), pumpkin soufflé with a special mountain cheese sauce, cotoletta alla Milenese satisfied my taste buds.  And of course, we explored Milan’s libations—so many that this is the first of a few posts about the trip.

On our second night, we met a couple of Italian friends, Luca and Giuseppe.  For our second cocktail stop before a wonderful dinner (Ristorante da Giannino is where I met the meat-stuffed olive), we went to Bar Basso for the original Negroni Sbagliata.

I was so excited when we walked through the door and saw owner Maurizio Stochetto behind the bar.  As Maurizio explains in this video, while making a Negroni one evening, his father accidentally grabbed sparkling wine instead of gin to add to the Campari and sweet vermouth.  Instead of ruining the drink, the Negroni Sbagliata (the “wrong” Negroni) was born.

Check out the huge glasses the drinks are served in!

 

Maurizio now tends to the many imbibers who visit Bar Basso, and following the tradition of true Italian hospitality, he is quite the host.  I introduced myself after we enjoyed our cocktails, which were served in giant glasses that first night.  When we returned a couple nights later, he remembered me and even let me snap a picture with him behind the bar.  I have a feeling if I lived in Milano, I would be a regular at Bar Basso.  The atmosphere is great—60s American music, comfortable chairs surrounding quaint tables, and thick red curtains make the large space cozy—and the Negroni Sbagliata is one delicious cocktail.

Me and Maurizio

 

One of my favorite things about traveling is meeting people who live in the places you are visiting.  It makes me feel like I am not just a tourist, but like I belong.  So, to my new Italian friends Luca, Giuseppe and Maurizio. Salute!

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Last night I was reminded why I like Craigie on Main so much—my taste buds are indulged and excited with each bite and each sip.

Holly, Maura and I settled into our seats at the bar and as we begin discussing drinks with John Mayer (one of my new favorite bartenders), Maura pointed to a small bowl of cardamom seeds and asked “What happens with those?” John answered her with the 1771 which features those cardamom seeds, gin, lime, grapefruit and sparkling wine.  Delicious.  I am so glad Maura asked about those cardamom seeds, and got our Cocktail Whim off to a good start.

The famous bowl of cardamom seeds. I was enjoying my drinks and food so much I didn't take many other pictures.

For our 3rd mini drink, John mixed us a 1794 (I guess it was a night of 18th century-named cocktails).  I like to think of this as a fall version of the Negroni—which I have drinking like crazy this summer.  In the 1794, rye whiskey replaces the gin, hence the name—1794 was the year of the Whiskey Rebellion.  The rye is equaled with Campari and Carpano Antica, the Cadillac of sweet vermouth.  And then a few dashes of mole bitters—now I know what to do with that bottle I bought at the Boston Shaker months ago.  I didn’t think the Negroni could be improved on, but I may have been wrong.  The mole bitters add this wonderful hint of chocolate to an already yum libation.

Now, I know I normally just write about cocktails, but I must veer off course to comment on our food.  I decided it was time to get over my fear of bone marrow—how bad could something described as “meat butter” be?  I smeared a bit on my toast, hesitantly took a bite, and was blown away. Bone marrow is crazy delicious! Fear gone. This could only be followed by the burger—grass-fed beef, with house-cured bacon, Vermont cheddar, mace ketchup, on a homemade sesame bun. If your mouth is watering just from reading this, imagine how I felt as I took a bite.  A burger shouldn’t be that good, but holy moly this one is beyond good.

That was one flavorful evening– cardamom seeds, mole bitters, bone marrow, a kick-ass burger, and I didn’t even talk about the Corpse Reviver #2 with Cocchi Americano or the Pisco milk punch.  Cheers!

Each summer I tend to gravitate to a particular spirit. Past summers have featured the sweet elderflower St. Germain and the herbalicious Chartreuse.  2010 has been the summer of Campari.  The Italian bitter apertivo turns 150 this year, so why not celebrate it?

I know that Campari is an acquired taste for many, but I just love it.  I love sipping it with soda water and an orange twist and I have been enjoying Negronis like it’s my job.  Part of what I love about Campari is the shock to my taste buds.  Even though I know that the flavor will be an intense bitterness, the bright garnet color deceives me.  The first sip is always a bit of a surprise, but as the flavor settles in I savor the complexity and the dryness.  I love spirits that keep me on my toes and Campari definitely does that.

Campari was created in 1860 by Gaspare Campari.  A talented bartender, he was successfully mixing drinks at the Bass Bar in Turino by the age of 14.  His recipe (still kept secret today) included a combination of herbs, spices, barks, and fruit peels.  The result is a wonderfully bitter flavor!

Throughout its history, Campari has created some amazing art work to promote their product.  They are Italian, I expect nothing less.  I’ve included a couple of my favorites here.

To the summer of Campari and another 150 years of this delicious stuff. Salute!


The rum was flowing and the songs were playing Monday night as Drink hosted the Boston semi-final round of Appleton Rum Remixology. The challenge was to create a cocktail using Appleton Estate Reserve Jamaican Rum that was inspired by a favorite song.  Five Boston bartenders “performed” their cocktails to their songs of inspiration while us bystanders sipped rum drinks with delicious names like Summer Breeze and Babbino Caro and nibbled on mini-ruben sandwiches.  Each drink and its story of inspiration was unique.  We were privileged to observe Aaron Bulter (Russell House), Corey Bunnewith (Russell House), Cali Gold (Drink), John Mayer (Craigie on Main) and Bryn Tattan (Drink) at their craft.  Here are all the semi-finalist’s recipes. Yum!

But in the end there can only be one winner and that prize went to John Mayer of Craigie on Main.  To the familiar tune of Sherry by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, John doned a Valli-style jacket and mixed his yum Bustamante cocktail while belting out a few of those high-pitched lines.  His singing was not to be outdone by his mixing—he stirred 3 glasses on a spinning turntable while holding up a mini-disco ball. Yes, you read that correctly.

John Mayer mixing his Bustamante cocktail. Thanks for the photo go to Chris Snyder.

A bit of background on John’s inspiration: The Bustamante was named for William Alexander Clark Bustamante, who served as the first Prime Minister of Jamaica when it gained its independence in 1962.  Frank Valli released Sherry in 1962.

Bustamante (created by John Mayer, Craigie on Main)

1 ½ oz Appleton Estate Reserve Jamaican Rum

¾ oz Campari

½ oz Sherry

3 barspoons Benedictine

2 dashes Regans’ Orange Bitters

Combine in mixing glass. Add ice and stir. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

John will now take his act on the road and represent Beantown in the finals in New York. Best of luck. Cheers!

The Negroni is one of my favorite summer drinks.  I just love sipping the potent bitter complexity on a warm day.  The end of my week-long vacation was sadly in my sights, so I thought what better way to savor the afternoon in the sun than with this delicious drink.

This was my view as I sipped my Negroni

The legend of the Negroni tells us that it was created in the 1920s in Florence, Italy when Count Camillo Negroni asked a bartender to stiffen his Americano, which consists of sweet vermouth, Campari and soda water.  A splash of gin was added and the Negroni was born.  While it is served in various fashions, I agree with Dale Degroff that its best over ice with an orange twist.

It was pretty hot Friday afternoon so I made good use of one of those freezer mugs, so my Negroni stayed icy cold. I know its not the proper glassware, but when in the woods you need to get creative.

Negroni

1 oz gin

1 oz Campari

1 oz sweet vermouth (I used Carpano Antica which is pretty flavorful stuff, so I actually cut this to ¾ oz)

Shake and serve over ice with an orange twist.

Cheers!

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