Thursday, 25 November 2010

Cinzano Rosso

Not be be confused with Campari, which is a totally different substance, and one that we shall doubtless come to in due course, Cinzano is a Vermouth. Which means, it seems, that one takes a wine, fortify it through adding some kind of spirit, 'aromatize' this with a top secret recipe of herbs and spices (it will come as no surprise that the different Vermouth makers treat the list of herbs used to impart flavour to their product as a closely guarded secret.

Why one would chose to do this to a wine is a bit of a mystery to me. It must, I suppose, have been a not particularly good year.

Be that as it may, once the Vermouth had been made (in Turin, in 1757 in this instance) people found they quite liked it. And so this particular recipe was handed down from father to son etc. Cinzano saw that this was a good thingand introduced a Bianco, an extra-dry and (urgh) a Rosé. But Rosso is the original, and so it seems like a good place to start.

But what does it taste like? No idea. Time to experiment.

(I regret that, due to excessive time spent with very small baby (our own), experiment in this area has been delayed. However, we hope to get something to you soon, and in the meantime here are some recipies with Cinzano in them)
  • Campari Americano - Combines both weird red liquids into a single drink. Pour Campari and Cinzano Rosso Vermouth (1 oz each) over ice in a rocks or highball glass. Add a splash of club soda. Garnish with an orange twist.
  • Cinzano Apple Jack - What could be more appetising than vermouth and apple juice? Add 1oz Cinzano Rosso to a highball glass filled with ice. Stir and top with apple juice. Add a dust of grated cinnamon
  • Bronx - Shake 2oz gin, 1oz dry vermouth and 1oz sweet vermouth (Cinzano, in this case) with 2oz fresh orange juice and plenty of ice. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a twist of orange.
  • One can also make a martini with equal parts dry and sweet vermouth. I have seen this referred to as a 'Perfect martini'

Or, if that all sounds a bit complex, simply drink with tonic water. Cinzano themselves recommend a 2:1 ratio of vermouth to tonic.

Monday, 25 October 2010


Human beings are divided, it seems, into two groups. Those who, as teenagers, or even more recently, enjoyed Amaretto mixed with lemonade before they moved on to adult drinks, like Babycham or Pimms, and those who went straight to cider, lager or scotch as their adolescent drink of choice.

Amaretto is a sweet, almond-flavoured liqueur, which is odd, because its name is derived from "amaro", the Italian word for "bitter", and it doesn't actually contain almonds. Or, at least, Disaronno Amaretto, the type you are most likely to have seen in your local gin palace, doesn't. So the nut allergic can safely consume it, so long as they aren't going to driving, or using heavy machinery.

You may have consumed Amaretto without being aware of it, as it is often used as an ingredient in tiramisu and also in miso soup (this is not actually true).

In drinking terms, it can be taken neat, on ice, in coffee, or a range of cocktails. We shall endeavour to explore a range of these over the next few days.

At Frankie and Benny's* in Colchester, of all places, K persuaded the waiter to go off menu and make an Irish Coffee with Amaretto. The result was extremely satisfying, the sweet, nuttiness of the liqueur perfectly complimenting the bitterness of the coffee. Even J, who is normally very rude about coffee, enjoyed a sip or two.

K is very nostalgic about the favourite cocktail of her youth, i.e. the Alabama Slammer they used to serve at Freuds in Oxford. Mind you, their nachos also used to seem like the most delicious thing in the world and I somehow doubt that they actually were so we have to make allowances for the student palate. As ever there seems to be some dispute about how to make the perfect AS but the core ingredients appear to be Amaretto, Southern Comfort, Sloe Gin and Orange Juice. K will track one down when the baby permits.

We would also like to thank Vigornian for his recipe recommendation. A number of individuals who spent a weekend in Malmesbury recently partook of Brandy (Martel VSOP) and Amaretto over ice, and all were in agreement that it was, to quote, "bloody marvellous".

* J is distraught to find out that the story of Frankie and Benny is a complete fiction, and 'their' first restaurant was opened in Leicester, rather than Manhattan.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Crème de menthe

Crème de menthe is a mint-based liqueur.  K's dad serves it (straight, no chaser) to startled guests in cut-glass sherry glasses alongside things like dates and nuts every now and then.

Sadly, the Duke of Edinburgh in Brixton does not serve it.  In fact, the barman didn't know what it was.

However, Benson Blakes, in Bury St Edmunds, not only does serve it but, when C asked whether they had it were quite prepared to knock together a cocktail that contained it. This anonymous cocktail contained cream, crème de menthe, vodka, a chocolate liqueur called Choco 21 which is unlikely to remain for very long at the back of anyone's drinks cabinet, really big ice cubes, a sprinkling of chocolate powder, and mint leaves. It looked like a mojito and tasted like pudding.

"After Eight" on the left, and pure, unadulterated C. d. M. on the right
Meanwhile, in The Last Days of Decadence, K & J experimented.   J tried his straight - "Like mouthwash but sweeter and stickier" - and K went for an "After Eight" which tastes exactly like you would expect a mixture of Bailey's, mint liqueur and chocolate liqueur to taste.  Not bad, so long as you don't mind your cocktails on the sweet side.

The classic crème de menthe cocktail is called The Grasshopper.  Wikipedia claim it was invented in New Orleans.  It sounds even heavier than that which has gone before - Crème de menthe, crème de cacao and fresh cream.  A "Stinger", meanwhile, is 3 parts brandy to one part (white) crème de menthe.  J is not sure he'd want to drink mint flavoured brandy but there's no accounting for taste.

D and M went to the swanky Finale in Boston near the Park Plaza Hotel on September 5th.  We shared a “minty chocolate martini” containing crème de cacoa, crème de menthe and bittersweet chocolate.  Sounds rather much like a "Grasshopper."  We also admit to ordering a “cookies and cream plate.”  The dessert plate was enough for 3 sittings, but the drink was consumed immediately.  I was told that this can’t be a martini because it doesn’t contain the right alcohol, namely vodka.  But I assure you it was sweet and did contain alcohol, it went down easily.  It was presented in a martini glass but seemed quite "girly" with the star designs on the top.  The chocolate at the bottom of the glass, which I finished off at the end, was delicious.     

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Welcome to The Drinks Cabinet

We have spent a lot of time in pubs, hotels and bars.  Most feature an array of liquors that no one appears to drink.  Ever.

Have you ever seen any order something with Cinzano Bianco in it?  Have you ever drunk Crème de cassis? What the hell is Advocaat?

The object of this blog is to try to find out more about these three drinks, and more.  We will seek out weird liquids that appear in bars around the world.  We will research their origins.  We will identify ways in which they are drunk.  And we shall attempt to drink them.

We will then blog the results.

Watch this space.