Chinotto [kēˈnȯt(ˌ)ō] is a sour, bitter citrus fruit from Southern Italy and Northern Africa, which is used to flavor most Italian amari. It is also used in this soft drink made by San Pellegrino. Bitter, somewhat medicinal flavor gives way to citrus undertones in this unique “adult” soft beverage. Good for adventurous imbibers like myself who want to try everything!
After my Mexican Coke vs. American Coke taste test, I had some extra Coke, so I decided to try to make the ultimate Cuba Libre.
Almost all of the recipes I’ve seen for the Cuba Libre call for making a rum & Coke, then simply adding a lime wedge. What? To me, that’s not a drink creation! That’s the equivalent of adding a lime wedge to a gin & tonic, then calling it a “God Save the Queen”! Is that all it’s ever been?
A bit of research revealed this article in Esquire magazine, which mentions “Baker’s Procedure”, requiring muddling the lime to introduce some of the oils from the rind. I tried this, and pretty good! More interesting than a simple rum & Coke, and a drink worthy of its own title.
Will Cuba ever truly be “libre”?
2 oz. silver tequila
1/2 oz. triple sec
1/2 oz. Campari
Juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 tsp. agave nectar
Fill a cocktail shaker half full with crushed ice.
Add all ingredients, shake vigorously for twenty seconds, pour into salt rimmed rocks glass and garnish with the crushed half lime.
You will swear there’s grapefruit in it! Crisp and refreshing.
Salud, feliz Cinco de Mayo!
Mexican Coca-Cola has continued to gain popularity over the past few years, now even showing up in some supermarket chain stores. The growing cult following, myself included, have convinced ourselves that the use of natural cane sugar in Mexican Coke, instead of high fructose corn syrup in the American version, results in a far superior product.
Comparing the list of ingredients reveals the only obvious difference to be the use of the two different sweeteners. However, also on the list of ingredients in both products is the always nebulous “natural flavors”, which could also play a role in the difference.
I have been wanting to conduct a blind taste test for a while now, and finally did so last night.
What was most surprising to me was how very different they were when compared side by side: the Mexican Coke had a very distinctive “brown” cane sugar flavor, was very smooth, and lightly carbonated. American Coke was brighter, bubblier, more acidic with distinct citrus notes, and somehow had an aftertaste of artificial sweetener, like saccharin! I didn’t believe my palate at first, but after multiple tastes, this artificial sweetener taste kept showing up at the end of the sip.
The Mexican Coke reminds me of motel stops on road trips with my parents as a child. After checking in to our room, my dad and I would go down the hall, where there would often be an ice machine and one of those old school Coke machines, with ice cold bottles for a quarter. Back at the room, we would unwrap one of those “sanitized” glasses, add ice, and share an ice cold Coke. Pure bliss, especially on a hot summer day in the middle of nowhere! So, there are some powerful memories which I relate to the drink, and they are revived for me when I drink a Mexican Coke.
So, which one is better? I encourage you to do a taste test and decide for yourself.
The Yin and Yang of Cocktails
Starfish in South Laguna Beach is one of my favorite places to hang at the bar and enjoy some really nicely crafted “Asian coastal cuisine”, accompanied by one of their amazing house cocktails.
My favorite of these cocktails is the Yin & Yang, a well balanced mixture of No. 209 gin, Aperol, fresh ginger, hand pressed lemon juice, and egg whites on the rocks. Last night, I was in the mood for these flavors, but wanted more of an up martini style drink. So, the lovely bartender simply made the same drink, but shaken and up, and it was perfect! Perhaps better than the original rocks version!
Just makes me wonder what other established “cooler” type cocktails could be transformed this way?
Cooler For The Not As Cool
Several years ago, while enjoying a Negroni cocktail at a local trattoria, I saw a friend and his date enter the restaurant and be seated across the patio. So I sent two Negronis over to their table, wanting to share the bliss. When I saw him later, he said ”thanks for the drinks you sent, they tasted like aftershave”. Sadly, my favorite drink is an acquired taste that is for many, never acquired. For them, I wanted to make something that emulates the flavor profile of the Negroni, but as a softer, slightly sweeter “cooler” version. Good for the warmer months, outdoor appetizers, by the pool…
2 oz. dry gin
1 oz. sweet vermouth
2 oz. San Pellegrino Sanbitter*
2 oz. San Pellegrino Limonata*
Orange peel twist
Fill a Collins or highball glass with cubed or cracked ice.
Pour in gin, vermouth and Sanbitter, stir well.
Top up with Limonata and stir gently.
Twist orange peel over drink to release oils, and drop in.
*available at finer grocery stores, Italian markets, and beverage superstores.
3/4 oz. macadamia nut liqueur
1 1/2 oz. freshly drawn espresso
Heat a single espresso cup with near boiling water.
Discard water and pour in macadamia nut liqueur.
Draw espresso into cup.
Top with milk micro foam and sprinkle on cocoa powder.
Pictures Of The Day: The Vaportini
“The Vaportini is a simple device that evaporates flavor-infused spirits, so you can breathe in the aromas and alcohol through a glass straw.”
Device by Julie Palmer of Red Kiva, Chicago inspired by Helsinki saunas: “She would go into the sauna with a bottle of vodka and pour it over the coals… You could really feel the effects of the alcohol without drinking it.”
About the design: “a hand-blown glass globe with a candle underneath it. A shot of spirit sits in the globe, and as it heats up, the liquid evaporates and fills the sphere with flavorful — and intoxicating — vapors, which you can then suck up through a glass straw.”
Launched December 2012. Plans for locally distilled spirits produced specifically for the device.
Reviewed by Jake Malooley: “The Vaportini eliminates a lot of the sensual elements of the cocktail experience… a mild buzz that wore off fast.” But he was still impressed by the nuances that came through.
Currently Sipping: Bramble (2 oz Beefeater 24, 1 oz Lemon Juice, .5 oz Simple Syrup (2:1), .25 Chambord)
Espresso always tastes better in an Italian cup, you can pretend you’re there…
I summon the ghost of Count Negroni. Your services are needed in Laguna Beach!
What better aperitivo is there before a quality Italian dinner than a classic Negroni? Yet, I have recently been to two well-established, authentic Italian restaurants in Laguna Beach where they have no idea what a Negroni is! Both of these restaurants are owned and run by native Italians. At both places, upon placing my order, I was cheerfully presented with a glass of gin, Campari, and soda on the rocks with an orange slice, with never a hint of doubt on either of the bartenders’ faces. I don’t even think this is an actual established cocktail, so how did they arrive at this recipe?? After informing them that this was not a Negroni, and what the drink was supposed to be, they both replied with something like, “Oh, you like it different than we do it”. As an Italian (and fastidious imbiber), this is absolutely maddening!
Meanwhile, across town at 370 Common, they place extraordinary importance on the craft of cocktail preparation—including the Negroni—and have taken it a step further, to create a barrel-aged version (photo) which succeeds in subtly mellowing the sometimes bitter bite of the drink.
So, what happened? 370 Common is owned and run by some of the young turks who are taking over the industry with their creative and reformist ideas, and serving cocktail perfection, while it seems that the more established, “old-school” restaurants have lost the craft. Some sort of gap in the space-time continuum?
Been finding some good quality, California grown “Moro” Blood Oranges this season. If you like citrus, and you’ve never had a good, fresh one, I highly recommend. Look for the ones with orange to red to purple skin mottling at finer supermarkets. The flesh is purple due to the presence of anthocyanins, a family of antioxidant pigments common to many flowers and fruit, but uncommon in citrus fruits. It not only looks purple, it tastes purple!
Squirt some of the juice into your Negroni cocktail for a new taste, or invent your own Valentine’s Day cocktail, and call it (sorry) My Bloody Valentine, or maybe, St. Valentine’s Day Massacre?
I love the interactive aspect of the Absinthe ritual.
This herbal liqueur was especially loved by artists and bohemians in late 19th and early 20th century France, who claimed it had psychoactive properties. It was banned in several countries in the early twentieth century, because it was thought that the chemical thujone in wormwood, its key ingredient, caused hallucinations and madness. It is now believed that these fears were greatly exaggerated, and Absinthe is now readily available.
I haven’t experienced any hallucinations after drinking it, but I do suspect there is something going on here that goes beyond your everyday distilled beverage. Maybe it’s power of suggestion due to its storied past, or maybe it’s the slight tongue-numbing effect, but there’s….something. What has been your experience?
The legend is that Cleopatra, after learning of the death of Mark Antony, committed suicide by means of a poisonous bite from an asp. In 2010, a study led by German historian Christoph Schäfer set out to find the truth. While inconclusive, they suspect that Cleopatra took her life with a lethal cocktail containing opium, hemlock, and aconitum(aka wolfsbane). Using this premise, I have created a cocktail that mimics the deadly potion that (may have) killed the last Egyptian pharaoh.
The first taste is of the cool and soothing Ouzo, to pacify. Then to the botanical and aromatic Green Chartreuse to exhilarate. And finally, to the root-y, herbal flavor of the dark Jäegermeister. Good night Queen, I hope Osiris judged you well.
1 oz. Jäegermeister
1 oz. Green Chartreuse
1 oz. Ouzo
Chill Jäegermeister and Green Chartreuse in freezer.
Chill a small diameter 3-4 oz. glass. (Small diameter needed to facilitate layering)
Pour Jäegermeister into glass, taking care not to splash on sides of glass.
SLOWLY pour Green Chartreuse over the back of a spoon or down a glass rod to layer on top of Jaegermeister.
In a mixing glass, stir Ouzo with an ice cube until cloudy. Remove ice cube.
SLOWLY pour Ouzo over the back of a spoon or down a glass rod to layer on top of the Green Chartreuse.
Drink slowly and be thankful that this is not your last.
Painting at top: The Death of Cleopatra by Jean-André Rixens (1846–1925)