The Italians have arrived at the party!
The Italian Amari are currently the sexy superstars of the cocktail world. Made from various herbs, plants, and other botanicals and based on secret recipes that have been around since forever, they bring a bitter component to drinks that people seem to either love or hate. Because of their ingredients, they also have the power to make the digestion process easier. They fall into two categories: apertivos are meant to be consumed before a meal to prepare our stomachs for what’s to come, and digestivos are usually served after we’ve eaten and can bring real relief when we’ve overindulged. Both categories can be served either in cocktails or on their own, neat or on the rocks. We’ll be talking about them from now until Thanksgiving – how’s that for perfect timing??
The lightest of the apertivos is Aperol, which has a mandarin orange flavor, a gentle bitterness that’s balanced by a fair amount of sweetness, and half the alcohol content of Campari. It’s the perfect introduction to the amari world. Aperol was created in the city of Padua in 1919, by brothers Luigi and Silvio Barbieri, who thought there was a need for a sweeter, more approachable apertivo. It quickly became popular as the main ingredient of the Aperol Spritz, where it’s blended with the Italian dry sparkling wine called Prosecco. One sip and it becomes fairly easy to imagine drinking these on a terrace somewhere in Italy with a beautiful view! It pairs very well with anything efferevescent, as well as vodka and gin, and grapefruit and blood orange. It’s also very nice served straight with some ice; that’s the perfect way to really get to know its flavor profile.
I found the recipe for the cocktail I’m sharing with you today about a year ago when I was looking for holiday drinks. It’s called The Confident Man, created by NYC restaurant owner Joe Campanale and based on the traditional Paloma, which is normally made with grapefruit and tequila. Campanale replaced the tequila with vodka and added in the trendy Aperol and St. Germain. The result is a beautiful cocktail that’s easy to drink and is a fun shade of orangey-pink, appropriately named for all the confident men would be okay with drinking a pink cocktail. I made a big batch of these last year for Christmas and everyone drank too many of them. Trouble ensued, but it was certainly a memorable night!
The Confident Man (from Joe Campanale, adapted by tastingtable.com)
2 ¼ oz vodka
¾ oz St. Germain*
¾ oz Aperol
1 ½ oz fresh grapefruit juice
Grapefruit wedge for garnishing
Add all the ingredients (except for the grapefruit wedge) to the bottom half of a shaker tin. Add your ice (1 large cube and 1 small if you have them on hand). Shake for 15-20 seconds until cold. Double strain using a Hawthorne strainer and a fine mesh strainer and then pour into a tall Collins glass over ice. Garnish with the grapefruit wedge. Enjoy!
*If the cocktail seems too sweet, you can always cut the St. Germain back to ½ ounce.