I am always on the lookout for new things and one of the most enjoyable aspects of “Cocktails from Quarantine” has been the excuse, I mean opportunity, to try lots of different alcohols. This week I stumbled across a bottle I have been looking for and immediately snatched it up, with the intent of exploring it’s charms and then sharing them with you, gentle reader. So, remembering that education is never a waste, won’t you join me now as we stand and make The Queen’s Steeple.
This drink was originally created by Loris Carotenuto at London’s, The Dorchester Hotel. It is an unusual blend of strong flavors that you wouldn’t typically think of together. Two distinctly intense amaros, a rediscovered long lost bitters recipe and another recently recreated flavor of the past, Italicus Rosolio di Bergamotto. This ancient style of Italian liqueur was originally named for it’s main ingredient the herb Sundew, known in Latin as “ros solis” or “dew of the sun”. Over time recipes changed as different regions added and subtracted ingredients so that now “Rosolio” is a generic term for these mostly homemade low alcohol content liqueurs, usually served at celebrations for good luck. Giuseppe Gallo resurrected this ancient recipe in 2016 when he created his bergamot flavored version. If you are having trouble placing it, bergamot is a dark green cross between a lemon and bitter orange, that gives the distinctive citrusy flavor and scent in Earl Grey Tea. I love it in tea and have been looking forward to trying it in a spirit for quite some time, so let’s get to mixing.
Grab your mixing pitcher and pop in 1 1/2 ounces of deeply herbal Amaro Montenegro, just under an ounce of that wonderful artichoke liqueur, Cynar; 1/2 an ounce of Italicus Rosolio di Bergamotto and 3 drops of Bogart’s Bitters from The Bitter Truth. Add ice and give that a good stir to the beat of Zucchero singing “Everybody’s Gotta Learn Sometime.“You are going to want a good chill and some dilution on this one so stir for a while thinking about all we have learned together over the last year and a half. That done, strain that chilled beverage into a coupe, express an orange peel over it and garnish with that peel, all twisted up.
That is surprisingly delicate and sort of wonderful. I really expected that bergamot to get lost in all of those other strong flavors, but it is there bringing a sweetness and a lovely topnote to this deeply herbal base. This one tricked me. Both of those amaro, or is it amari, are very present spirits that can absolutely overtake any drink. Those bitters are no slouch either, but all of these disparate elements really blend well here and give the Italicus room to shine. Sure, these are not bottles that everyone has on the shelf, so this is definitely a niche drink, but it is definitely worth considering for your menu, even if a lot of folks are not going to be familiar with the ingredients and those who are, probably are a little intimidated by the idea of using them together. Damn fine drink, though.
On some level, this is the kind of drink that I hate to read about. I used to see these things all the time that looked amazing and sounded incredible, but were full of ingredients that no one had on their home bar. Like so many of the things we covet in life, they were wonderfully inaccessible. Honestly, a year and a half ago I was not familiar with a single ingredient in this drink. I had heard of Bogart’s Bitters, but I had never seen them in person, much less tasted them. I am sure I had seen Montenegro or Cynar on a backbar somewhere, but I had no clue what they tasted like or why they were on so many bars. When I first saw this recipe, I thought, “Cool, I have all the ingredients. I can make that tonight.” It was only after I looked at them sitting on the counter that I realized just how “special” each of these ingredients are. Yep, I had just made one of those inaccessible drinks that I swore I was never going to do. I suppose it is true, if you live long enough, you become the things you have mocked. Sorry about that, I’ll try to be better, but until then, I am going to enjoy this remarkably accessible, to me, drink and watch that sunset. Stay safe, stay hydrated and stay sane, my friends.