My Memorial Day Must-Haves
Now that Memorial Day is almost here, with what do I need to stock the bar for summer?
I grew up in a household that loved scotch but not bitters so it wasn’t until on my honeymoon (well into my drinking years) that I fell in love with Aperol. Produced in Padua, Aperol was the perfect drink for our first night together in the Veneto. Mixed with a local prosecco that brought out its gentian flvours, it was heaven in a glass. Venice, while far from my favorite Italian city, served up some of the best food and drink I’ve ever consumed during the four days we were there. Fun fact: while Aperol contains Cinchona it is classed as a Bitter not a Tonic.
It’s hard to beat an aperitif that’s 85% Bourdeaux wines mixed with macerated peels of sweet oranges from Spain and Morocco. The combination makes my Renaissance soul rejoice. I fell in love with Lillet early in my drinking life, sipping it at the empty bar at Gramercy Tavern (not open yet for the night) with the bartender and distributor’s rep. Lillet is categorized as a “Tonic wine” since it contains Cincocha bark, the ingredient that gives tonic it’s distinctive flavour.
Luxardo Maraschino Liqueuer
Don’t let the “maraschino” in the title put you off. Luxardo is a clear, dry(ish) liqueur made from sour Mascara (Croatian) cherries. It’s distilled in a similar fashion to brandy and then sweetened, aged and filtered, producing a subtle and nuanced taste. This selection also reminds me of its Renaissance root, Rosolio, an Adriatic brew of bitter almond and honey. Maraschino is used in a bevy of classic cocktails although less now. Make it your secret cocktail weapon this summer.
In a huge departure from the historical bottles above, Sage is a mere baby in the spirit world. Art In The Age of Mechanical Reproduction began producing it only a couple of years ago. It’s what I might term a “new American gin” based on a recipe developed by Thomas Jefferson’s botanical advisor, Bernard McMahon (an emigre to Philadelphia, where AITA is based, in 1796). While I tend not to love gin, Sage is amazingly delicious. From the first moment I tasted it shortly after it was released I’ve been a convert. Despite the name, sage is not the predominant flavour in this spirit made with Angelica, Dandelion, fennel, rosemary, sage, sumac, and thyme. Rosemary takes the top note, giving way to a complex and rich concoction. It’s wonderful on the rocks or in savory and sweet drinks.