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I am excited for my trip to Milan.  I love Italy.  I love traveling.   But I hate packing.  What to bring? What to leave home? With piles of clothes and a few too many pairs of shoes covering my bed, I decided a cocktail might take the stress out of this process.  It was only appropriate to get inspiration from Italy.  I chose Cynar, a tasty Italian bitter made from 13 plants and herbs. The most prominent ingredient is artichoke—yes, artichoke.  The taste is in fact bitter, as it should be, but there’s also an earthiness and butteriness from the artichoke that make it interestingly smooth.  To propel me through my packing woes, I made a refreshing and delicious Cynar Sour.  It hit the spot perfectly and my suitcase eventually got packed.

Cynar Sour

2 oz Cynar

¼ oz Luxardo Maraschino

1 oz lemon juice

¼ oz agave nectar

Shake and serve over ice.

To further procrastinate from packing, I found this fun commercial for Cynar. L’amaro vero, ma leggero.

I look forward to enjoying Milan’s famous apertivo, the evening cocktail hour, and visiting Fernet Branca and Campari.  So, expect a full report upon my return. Salute!

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This unbearable heat has taken its toll on me.  I don’t seem to have the energy to write a whole lot, so here are some of the highlights from my Wednesday night visit to Drink with Paula.

The Americano—the predecessor to the Negroni—is a great drink for a 95 degree day.   Campari, sweet vermouth and soda is bitter and smooth and refreshing.

I think my Americano was a much better choice than say, a Blue Blazer.  Yes, someone actually ordered these. Maybe it’s just me, but scotch on fire in the middle of a heat wave seems like an odd choice.

Sam Treadway

The JDP is going international.  We met a very sweet Canadian couple, Brianna and Kevin, and suggested that Brianna might enjoy a JDP a bit more than a Blue Blazer. She did.

Brianna and Kevin

Our evening ended with two mini JDPs—thank you, Sam!

I am making our Wednesday outing sound pretty low key, but I am leaving out many details about some of our fellow imbibers which made things interesting and entertaining.  Cheers!

Thanks to Paula for the photos.

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!

Dear Tom,

How are you?  Brian, Jeff and I enjoyed spending time with you this weekend. Hope you enjoyed the cabin.

Has anyone ever told you that you are just perfect? Well, you are!  I got stuck in commuter hell today thanks to some gigantic hole on 93.  I couldn’t even make it to meditation (boo!).  I arrived home annoyed and stressed and frustrated.  Then I thought of you—full of botanicals, tart, sweet and fizzy—and I started to feel better.  And as the ice clanged around in the shaker, I knew it would all be okay.  I took a sip, and your yum sweet-tart combo hit the spot.  The stress of the ride home slowly melted away.

Hope to see you again soon.  Enjoy the summer!

Love, your friend, Jenn

Tom Collins

1 ½ oz gin

1 oz simple syrup

¾ oz lemon juice

Shake.  Strain over ice and top with club soda.

I think a Tom Collins is a perfect summer drink. Stressful commute or not—it’s delicious! Cheers!

Sunday night, season 4 of Mad Men began.  I love this show for the characters, the clothes, the decor, the history (It is hard for me to believe that just 40 years ago women were called “doll” in the workplace and it was okay!), and of course the drinks.  If you want to drink Mad Men style, you have many options– some expected, like a gimlet or a Tom Collins, others unexpected perhaps.

Julie and I thought a Manhattan would be a good choice to sip while we watched.  We are both extremely fond of Deep Ellum’s 1970s Manhattan which features Canadian Club (yes, Canadian Club).   I just happened to have a new bottle fresh from a recent stop at the NH liquor store– perfect.  Two parts Canadian Club, one part sweet vermouth, and a couple dashes of bitters (we experimented we a couple different things, but I thought orange bitters were best here), stir, and serve on the rocks and you have one mighty delicious drink.

So, there we are sipping our Manhattans watching Don Draper do his thing, which when in the office usually includes a drink (that’s straight alcohol they drink all day in work!).  I catch a glimpse of the bottle– what’s that? Canadian Club!  The label was a bit different than the modern label on my bottle, but that definitely said Canadian Club in that familiar flourished script.

To more Mad Men inspired cocktails. 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!

Over the last couple weeks, the universe was doing its best to connect me and the margarita.  First, my knowledge of the lyrics to Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville scored by team a few points at Tipple Trivia (did you know there are six items mentioned in the song that are either edible or drinkable?).  Then, a Margaritas restaurant opened down the street from my house.  And as the weather warmed and I started thinking about refreshing summer cocktails, I wondered does anything say summer quite like a margarita?

Sure, I have enjoyed many of the sour mix variety, but a real one made with tequila, orange liqueur and fresh lime juice is oh, so much better!  The agave of tequila adds a warm rich booziness, complimented by the sweet orange and tart lime.  In making my first real margarita, I did a little taste test with my orange liqueur.  I compared Hiram Walker Triple Sec and Cointreau*—first a blind tasting of the spirit on its own and then in a margarita.  My taste buds preferred the triple sec, which was slightly sweeter and offered the orangey-ness that I was looking for both on its own and in the drink itself.  I admit I was a bit surprised that the less expensive triple sec would have been preferable to the Cointreau, but it’s true.

The origin of the margarita has its roots in a drink served in Tijuana in the 1930s—a Tequila Daisy, a combination of tequila, lemon and a sweetener.  Margarita means daisy in Spanish.  As most drinks do, this one also has its own glamorous creation myth.  As the story goes it was the creation of a Texas socialite Margarita Sames for her 1948 Christmas party.  It quickly made its way out of Sames’s Hollywood social circle into wider drinking circles to become one of the most popular drinks in America.

Margarita (This is Dale DeGroff’s recipe with my substitution of triple sec)

1 ½ oz tequila (only 100% agave, please)

1 oz triple sec

¾ oz fresh lime juice

¼ oz agave syrup (optional; he suggests it as a way to add some sweetness which some may need if they are used to the sour mix variety served in most places)

Shake. Serve straight up or on the rocks in a salted-rim glass.

Happy Summer! Happy Margaritas!  Cheers!

* I need to fess up here and acknowledge that I was provided with Hiram Walker Triple Sec and Cointreau free of charge.

My friend Pilar is heading to England to participate in Attingham, a summer residency focused on historic houses and decorative arts.  This program is a pretty big deal, so we gathered to celebrate her achievement and to give her a proper send off—with Pimm’s Cups, of course.

The Pimm’s Cup is to Wimbledon as the Mint Julep is to the Kentucky Derby.  Light and refreshing, it is a good warm weather drink and with a relatively low proof it allows tennis spectators to maintain the appropriate decorum needed at Wimbledon.  The drink is a combination of Pimm’s and lemonade with a splash of club soda.  Pimm’s, a gin-based aperitif with quinine and a mix of herbs, was invented in the mid-19th century by James Pimms who ran an oyster bar in the banking center of London. The drink can be garnished with cucumber, mint, strawberry, apple or the traditional sprig of borage.  I had never had a Pimm’s Cup before, but really enjoyed it and will add it to my summer repertoire.

Congratulations to my friend Pilar and thank you to the Brits for inventing a delicious summer cocktail. Cheers!

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