Friday Musings: It’s a matter of taste.
So let’s say you’ve taken Thirsty Camel’s advice and you’ve headed out on a Friday or Saturday night to one of the bars that she recommends. You’re excited to be there! You can’t wait to try the cocktails! It’s going to be a great night! But then the bartender hands you the drink menu and something goes wrong. Panic sets in. Your palms begin to sweat as you make your choice. Oh no, please don’t say it… “I’ll have a vodka club.” How does this happen?? Listen, I’m not judging – we’ve all been there. I remember the days when the most exciting thing I did in a bar was change up the citrus in my vodka and tonic water. The fact of the matter is that it takes time to learn exactly what we like and what we’ll be comfortable ordering. Think of it this way: if you walked into a bookstore and you had no idea what you liked to read, it would all seem overwhelming to you and you’d probably leave with a magazine. If you walked into that same bookstore and you knew you liked to read classic literature, you’d at least know what direction to head in. And if you knew you loved William Faulkner and you wanted to read As I Lay Dying, you’d know just where to look with no hesitation at all. It works the same way with cocktails. It’s all about figuring out what taste profiles appeal to you. You may like gin, but do you like it to taste more like citrus or juniper? You may love single malt Scotch but do you prefer it smoky like Laphroaig or smooth like Balvenie? How about just a general question: do you like your drinks sweet, or sour, or bitter? Once you begin to have these answers you build a taste directory in your head that you can refer back to again and again. If you’re in doubt you should never be reluctant to ask your bartender for a recommendation. They’re usually more than willing to help. Try as many different spirits as you can, and whenever possible, taste them side by side. I’m not advocating that you drink the entire bottle, but it only takes a sip to taste the difference between Hendrick’s and Beefeater, or between bourbon and rye. There’s no better way to learn!
The spirit you see pictured above is called Cappelletti, and it’s an apertivo just like Aperol, Campari, and Cynar. I knew nothing about it until my son bought it for me as a gift. The first thing I had to do was taste it on its own, and the second thing was to taste it along with the others to see how it was the same or different. By itself I thought the Cappelletti tasted a lot like a cherry cough drop that started out sweet and then ended on a mildly bitter note. To me it was very different in taste from the other apertivos we’ve covered this week. In terms of body, or mouthfeel, I would put it between the Aperol and the Campari. I was curious to taste it in a cocktail so I began searching for one that I could make for you today. I found a recipe from epicurious called The Ruby Diamond that intrigued me because it also contained gin and mezcal, two of my favorite things. The ingredients are simple, yet it tastes very complex, and it’s beautiful to look at.
The Ruby Diamond (epicurious.com)
1½ ounces Bluecoat gin
1½ ounces Del Maguey Chichicapa mezcal
¾ ounce Cappelletti
¾ ounce fresh lemon juice
¼ ounce fresh orange juice
Orange and lemon stars for garnishing*
Add the ingredients to the bottom half of a cocktail shaker. Add your ice (1 large, 2 small if you have them) and shake for 20 seconds or until very cold. Double strain into a chilled cocktail coupe or a goblet. Float the stars on top. Enjoy!
*To make the stars I cut off some of the peel from a lemon and an orange and used a small pastry cutter to cut out the shapes I wanted.
On to the darker Amari next week. Have a great weekend everyone!