DEAR CAMPARI

campari-close-label

The content in my glass is glistening like red rubies and i get thirsty by just looking at it. I know too well how completely satisfying a glass of Campari can be – on the rocks, with soda or orange juice.

From the land of bitter aperitifs and digestifs – Italy – we are blessed with a whole range of bitter aperifs and digestifs such as Campari, Aperol, Cynar, Ramazotti and Fernet Branca to name a few. These are all good for our digestion and has medical properties as well as wonderful flavors even though to many it`s an aquired taste. But give them a chance – you might get hooked.

These has been my companions for many years and my first accuintance with Campari was in right there in Italy where i had my first glass sitting at a restaurant in Napoli after we had a wonderful day in the beautiful island of Capri. My memories of that first glass are so (bitter) sweet.

I shall never forget the first chocking sip and then the next eventually leading to a long life love relationship with this wonderful apertif. Unusually maybe, i didn`t dislike it at all and came to love it very fast. Some people are just “bitter” types..

Italy is also the place where i also made my first experiences with vermouth, and therefore vermouth is to me also connected with that special atmosphere of Italy as well – which is a mèlange of tranquility and chaos – the lazy afternoon in the cooler shadows, the hot sun, the food, the fragrances…the chaotic traffic and the blue mediterranian sea.

Few things are to me so pleasant as a glass of Campari before a good meal and especially if that dinner was a pasta dinner with something like say – a lobster sauce. The typical and also the most tasty way to drink these bitter aperitifs and digestives is to keep it simple and enjoy them neat with ice and a slice of orange or lemon.

But they are also wonderful mixers for cocktails and there´s no limit to what you can do with them, especially Campari and Aperol are well suited for mixing. So my favorite above all – the Campari is what i used here for this post which really, is about playing with Campari.

And with it the very common but proved combination of fresh blood orange juice, (they just go hand in hand) – its hard to fail. I was going to stop there because nothing more is needed – but just for the heck of it i decided to rinse the glass with absinthe and for freshness, a sprinkle of lime juice and then something for the nose – fresh mint wrapped in lime peel.

This cocktail celebrates my sunny memories of Capri.

CAPRI

capri-sunset

2 oz Campari
2 oz fresh blood orange juice
sprinkle of lime
Absinthe rinse

Fill a rocks glass half full with large ice cubes, pour the ingredients and stir, add more ice and garnish with mint wrapped in lime peel and a slice of blood orange.

I discovered that the Campari almost overpowers the Absinthe – but its there even though quite subtle, so if you want more, just add a few extra drops.To me it was ok though as the emphasis is on the Campari, the Absinthe is just there to add a little subtle tingle, something i think Absinthe is very good for.

Another classic Campari drink that never a fails is the Campari and Soda, just a splash of each, ice  and lemon or orange wedge in the glass..unbeatable! Here is another take on this refreshing drink that uses fresh mint and crushed ice.

CAMPARI AND SODA WITH MINT

campari-soda

Take 10 mint leaves and muddle with 1/4 oz simple syrup, add 2 oz campari and stir with ice to mix, then strain into a rocks glass with crushed ice and top up with Soda. Add a sprinkle of fresh lime and garnish with mint and a lime wedge.

Unfortunately the old Campari (the one with cochineal) is no more produced and what is available here is the new one. Even if the flavour difference maybe isn´t that dramatical its still there – very subtle but there`s a difference. R.I.P Old Campari.

I think they also have made some new artsy labels for Campari, making it more classy and modern in style – which i don`t particularly like, i like it the old style – not too fancy but more down to earth genuine, the way it always been.

Campari is one of my absolute favorite spirits. please don`t destroy it.

MxMo XXXIX – AMARO

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Oh how i love this topic! thank you Chuck for hosting this MxMo at the Gumbo Pages which i consider being a fantastic blog.

amaro-ramazotti

One amaro two amari..

These bitter herbal liqueurs are very dear to me because for some weird reason its some of the first alcohol drinks that i tried and that was in Italy, and therefore i always feel the memories of that wonderful country when i drink a nice amaro. I just need to look at a bottle  to get that special feeling. Oddly enough Cynar is one of the amaris which i tried later than sooner.

Now its not just the italians that makes bitter liqueurs but really the italians have made it into an art to create diverse liqueurs from all sorts of unlikely ingredients, just think about Cynar! (artichoke) or Amaro Nonino which is made from grappa infused with herbs, plus grain alcohol, and ingredients that include caramelized sugar, bitter orange, cinchona, galenga, gentian, liquorice, quassia wood, rhubarb, saffron, sweet orange and tamarind.

One of the most famous amaris is Amaro Averna from Sicily which among other things contains chinotto, the bitter orange which i really like. I once read somewhere that the italians have invented more than 300 different kinds of after-dinner digestive drinks for relieving the heaviness that often follows their meals.

Amaro means bitter in italian and its a bitter herbal liqueur, a digestif usually drunk after dinner, having a tonic effect, cleansing the palate between meals. Amari are most often drunk neat with a citrus wedge, ice or with a topping of tonic water, here simplicity is the best, but they are also wonderful mixers for other cocktails.

For this post i decided to use Ramazotti menta which i don´t use that very often and now i got a wonderful opportunity to make more use of it. Ramazotti menta is also a bit challenging i think as the mint flavor really can be a bit overpowering, i think mint has a way to do that unless its fresh.

The original Amaro Ramazotti is a reddish-brown digestive that sits somewhere in the mid-range of bitterness with a bit of an orangey flavor. Its made with 33 ingredients and among them are cinchona tree bark, cinnamon, gentian, oregano, bitter orange from Curaçao sweet oranges from Sicily.

Ramazotti was first made in Milano in 1815 by Ausano Ramazotti who created it in his shop as a tonic liqueur made from herbs and spices including gentian root, rhubarb, cinnamon and the peel from Sicilian oranges. Ramazzotti does not contain artificial color or flavour materials.

Now with this menta version i made a very simple digestive, amaro menta with some ice and fresh orange juice topped off with a small splash of fernet, another famous amaro and one of my favorites along with campari..

MENTA AMARO

amaro-bitter-menta1

1 oz Ramazotti menta
2 oz fresh orange juice
Small splash fernet branca
Soda to top
Ice cubes
Garnish orange wedge and mint

Half fill a rocks glass with ice cubes, add Ramazotti menta and orange juice, stir. Add a small splash fernet branca and top with soda. Fill up with more ice and garnish with a orange wedge and mint sprig.

The topping off with a small splash of Fernet followed by soda will layer the bitter flavors a bit.

I was very tempted to even top off with a few dashes of bitters but i resisted, that would have been too much different bitter flavors outdoing each other. Even the combination of Ramazotti menta and Fernet is maybe a bit unusual but actually i find it tasty. The color isn`t the most appetizing, a cloudy murky sort of brown but dont let that fool you, this tastes much better than it looks.

Overall this cocktail was tasty enough to make me want to drink it again. The fun thing is that rather than feeling like a digestive it sparked my appetite for wanting more of both the dinner and another drink.

 Finally one last thing, i sometimes enjoy a shot of Swack which is a lighter version of the original Unicum (or i enjoy a shot of Fernet).

 amaro-unicum

And with this i want to finish by saying that i really looking forward to read the roundup, so don`t forget to check out the Gumbo pages in a few days.

amaro-ramazotti-menta

ZWACK!

swack

Since 1790 the Hungarian company Zwack – founded by József Zwack – has made among others the bitter Unicum which was introduced in the US by Diaego in the new version which in the US is called Zwack.

When i received the little round bottle of Zwack i found that i`m really liking it, its a cute yummy little bottle containing a yummy liqueur.  The Zwack which in Europe is sold as “Unicum Next” is less bitter and more citrusy than the original Unicum. It contains more than 40 herbs and is aged in oak casks for at least six months.

I have a love for bitter tastes and when i tried Zwack i liked it, but its actually not that bitter, rather its herbal-spicy with citrus tones and the nose has hints of cough medecine. My overall thought on this one is that if you like Campari, Fernet or Unicum you`ll like Zwack. But Zwack is much less bitter than these so maybe its even a good starter for those who haven´t tried these bitter liqueurs.

Zwack is traditionally drunk as a shot with 1-1.5 oz Zwack and is served ice cold.

In the mixoloseum chat room it was suggested by Erik over at Underhill Lounge to try the Zwack in a Picon Punch replacing the Amer Picon with Zwack.The recipe for the Picon Punch at the Gumbo Pages looks really tasty, but any Amer Picon i didin´t have (not sold here)  and so i did what i call a Zwack Punch.

The Picon Punch recipe is as follows:

PICON PUNCH – The National Drink of the Basques

2 ounces Amer Picon (Torani Amer)
Few dashes of grenadine
Soda water
Lemon peel
1/2 ounce brandy (optional)

To do it Italian-style, coat the inside of a tumbler with grenadine. Add the Amer and ice, top with about 4 ounces soda and stir. Twist the lemon peel over the drink and garnish. If you feel the cockles of your heart need further warming, float a tablespoon or so of brandy on top.

ZWACK PUNCH

zwack-punch

2 ounces Zwack
Few dashes of grenadine
Soda water
Lemon peel
1/2 ounce brandy (optional)

Proceed as in the recipe above. I find this drink quite tasty if drunk in a small glass, more would be too much. I can see this one after a heavy meal now and then and also as a night cap sometimes. The round bottle is really a cute little thing and the name alone and then that cross on the label makes it look really interesting.

I read somewhere its the sexiest bottle on earth,  is it?

THE MYTHICAL FERNET BRANCA

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FERNET BRANCA SPONSORED TDN

The TDN last thursday (march 5) was sponsored by Fernet Branca and we were honored to have Nicole Hayek from Fernet Branca with us to participate and answer our questions while we mixed up a range of cocktails containing Fernet, on this a bit mysterious “all-purpose” medecine and digestif, which doesn`t leave anyone untouched – it’s an acquired taste first and foremost, and with the ones who are real fans the fernet love is as solid as a rock.

Fernet Branca is a favorite beverage of mine so even though i was only able to attend the Fernet sponsored TDN for about an hour, that hour i really enjoyed. It doesnt hurt to say it again, Fernet is not only a digestif and a cocktail ingredient , it´s a medecine, it not only keeps you healthy, it also makes you happy!

The winning cocktail of the evening – Bully Boy (was determined by a poll on the Mixoloseum blog) and will receive a bottle of Amaro Nonino courtesy of Mud Puddle Books. Congrats Chris!

FROM THE LAND OF AMARIS

Fernet Branca hails from Italy and is quite a thing of its own and is remotely close to Gammeldansk or maybe even Jegermeister.

Produced in Milan, Italy – Fernet Branca is a bitter, aromatic grape-based spirit that is said to be made from over 40 herbs and spices and said to be among them are myrrh, chamomille, aloe, gentian root, rhubarb, red cinchona bark, galanga zedoary and saffron. The saffron is one of the key ingredients and the Branca family actually esentially controls the market price for this spice by accounting for 75% of the worlds saffron consumption. Saffron is one of my favorite spices.

Fernet Branca has a bitter and complex flavor and the taste is hard to describe, when you drink it the first time your senses litterally gets attacked by an immense array of flavors. Its widely known to both cure and prevent hangovers among other things, and was created by Bernardino Branca – a self-taught apothecary in Milan, who first offered Fernet-Branca to the public in 1845, marketing his product as a tonic to cure many kinds of illnes.

Maria, Bernardino’s daughter-in-law,helped the trade by advertising the product among high-society ladies as an excellent remedy for menstrual pain, and as a tonic for anxious people, stomach and headache, and finally digestif and aperitif. The italians definetily knows a thing or two, my first experiences with pain-relief of those kinds was given to me at a young age in Italy by a wise woman in the form of italian vermouth.

The company Fratelli Branca, overseen by the Branca family is still producing Fernet Branca in Milan. Fratelli Branca Distillerie claim that the recipe has remained unchanged since its invention in 1845.

The following products are produced at the Fratelli Branca distillery: Brancamenta, Stravecchio Branca, Grappas Candolini, Sensea specialty line, Caffè Borghetti, Punt e Mes, Carpano Bianco, Carpano Classico, Carpano Antica Formula and Sambuca Borghetti with the addition in 1985 of the Villa Branca Products (wine and extra virgin olive oil).

The two largest Fernet consuming places in the world are Argentina, where they drink it with coke (its even a national spirit!), and then San Fransisco where its usually followed by a chaser of ginger ale. The old time fernet contained an unknown (to me anyway) amount of opiates which surely must have helped to relieve pain in those times when modern medecine wasn`t yet invented, but nowadays there are only traces of those opiates is in the bottles.

Here is a very interesting article on the Fernet Branca from SF Weekly com, this drink came to the US in the suitcases of Italian immigrants – read:

The myth of Fernet.

One of the 3 drinks i submitted for this TDN was the Pisco Branca, which is a mix of Pisco Sour and Pisco Punch with a boost of Fernet and a hint of fresh mint. This drink became really smooth and the key here is to not use any other pineapple juice but fresh, from preferably newly matured (these are not too sweet) pineapple slices.

PISCO BRANCA

pisco-branca

2 oz pineapple juice, from 1-2  slices of fresh pineapple

2 oz Pisco

1/4 oz Fernet Branca

1 whole egg

0.5 oz fresh lime juice

0.5 oz simple syrup

1-2 fresh apple mint leaves

Dash Angostura bitters

Blend all with ice except bitters at high speed 10 sek and pour into glass. Dash bitters on top of the foam. Garnish with a pineapple wedge. The eggs mellows the fernet and the drink isn`t bitter its rather smooth.

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Everyone who has tried Fernet has some kind of relationship to this mythical drink, me i love it and i mostly sip it straight in shots, what`s yours?

Cheers!

T