When was the last time that you went to Italy? Strolled along the winding roads and cobblestone streets. Sipped cocktails that were as striking as the clothing that seemed to be hand-cut on every man, woman and child?
You don’t have to be able to afford a plane ticket, nor the price of a custom made wardrobe to enjoy the bitter-sweet pleasures of Aperol.
Before can say Aperitivo, get yourself down to your local package goods store and purchase a bottle of Aperol. Sure you’ve heard of Campari, it’s from the same group of liquor producers, but Aperol is truly different. Less alcohol, lighter in body, a bit more elegant in the glass.
Aperol whispers its love in moody black and white, whereas Campari is the full-length motion picture version of this aromatic Aperitivo in dramatic CinemaScope.
The flavor of Aperol is between herbal and tangy. There are citrus fruits in there along with white flowers and the unmistakeable flavors of exotic roots. I’m taken by Aperol for the bitter and the sweet.
The first time I tasted Aperol I was in Italy with my parents. It was served in the classic fashion, on the rocks with a spritz of highly salted club soda.
My memory serves me with an incredible sense of taste. I remember to this day the tiny slice of Sicilian lemon, bright and spicy as if rubbed by North African spices and brooding, melting hot-southern Italian heat. The citrus fruit cut the bittersweet Aperitivo and gave it legs into my memory. The most tangible thing about drinking this cocktail in the presence of my very understanding parents (they ordered it for me) was the salty club soda used to finish this cocktail. I remember drinking several before my usual meal of Tortellini in Brodo. I love the tangy balance of Tortellini in Brodo and remember every taste from my childhood as if it was just last week.
It seemed like every meal was the same and each bowl served as a metaphor of my future life in the fresh pasta business. Yes, I was in the fresh pasta business in Charleston, South Carolina, before Hurricane Hugo blew in and spoiled the party.
The cocktail in front of me is a twisted take on that halcyon cocktail of decades past. The lemon and the Aperol are the only constants from the past. I added in the present day cocktail a bit of homemade Vietnamese Salty Grilled Lemonade. This smoky sweet lemonade was juiced by hand from seared Meyer Lemons and the addition of Swedish Sea Salt from Falksalt to give it a certain twang. I also added a piece of slapped Thai Basil to the cocktail in keeping with my fresh from the garden approach to late summer cocktails. There is also a big hit of Hendrick’s Gin in the mix. The flavors of Hendrick’s remind me of Europe- an unusual Europe where everything is not as it seems.
I love using ice made by filtering water through my Mavea (made in Germany) “inspired water” pitcher. For some reason the filter takes all the impurities out of the water making the ice crystal clear! You really need to get one and try this simple experiment.
I call this cocktail the “Journey to Lake Garda”
The ingredients are easily purchased. Yes, you may substitute Campari for Aperol if the Aperol is unavailable.
Journey to Lake Garda Cocktail
Ingredients to dispel any knowledge of your past and make your present tense blotto in short order!
Each recipe makes two or more blindingly strong cocktails.
Danger Level 5 out of 5!
Freshly made Vietnamese Salty Grilled Lemonade
(see recipe below)
Bitter End Thai Bitters
Thai Basil (slapped!)
Lemon Zest Ice made from water from your Mavea “Inspired”water pitcher (freezes crystal clear)
(see recipe below)
To a Boston Shaker (Cocktail Shaker)
Fill 1/4 with ice
Add 2 shots of Aperol
Add 3 shots of Hendrick’s Gin
Add 3 shots of your grilled Vietnamese Salty Lemonade
Add exactly 6 drops of the Bitter End Thai Bitters
Shake Shake Shake Shake!
Strain into a tall glass filled with your lemon zest ice and garnish with a piece of slapped Thai Basil
How do you slap Thai Basil? Put a piece in your hand and clap it with your other hand, then add it to your cocktail. Slapped Basil!
Vietnamese Salty Lemonade:
- 1 cup Demerara Natural Sugar (essential)
- 1 cup freshly squeezed grilled lemon juice, pulp and rinds reserved (from about a dozen lemons)
- 2 teaspoons Falksalt, or more to taste.
Grill chunks of lemon over charcoal until they take a bit of color to them, just lightly charred…
- 1. In a small saucepan combine sugar with 1 cup water, and place over slow heat; cook, stirring, until your sugar dissolves.
- 2. In another pan bring 6 cups water to a boil; remove from heat, and add the grilled lemon rinds and pulp.
- 3. Cover, let steep for 10 minutes
- 4. Combine strained liquid in a pitcher with lemon juice and more salt as needed.. Voila! Vietnamese Grilled and Salted Lemonade!
Lemon Zest Ice:
Zest a well scrubbed Meyer lemon into your ice cube tray then pour the “inspired water” from your Mavea pitcher over the top for Meyer lemon zest infused ice cubes