Archive for the ‘liqueur cocktails’ Category

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Another Bite of the Cherry

February 28, 2015

Cherry season is over in Australia, but it’s never too late for a rave.

It’s been a bumper season and I’ve had fun with red Bing cherries and white Royal Rainier cherries – and for the first time coffee cherries from my own tree. I’ve also grown cherry tomatoes, but that’s not such a happy story.

I’ve eaten them fresh, macerated them, folded them into a semifreddo, made cherry granita and added them to drinks.

I bought a heap of Royal Rainier cherries at Christmas and preserved them. They have an early, short season and I’m still enjoying the last jar, adding the cherries on top of gelato, sweetened ricotta or into a refreshing drink called a Cherry Muddler. I altered this Spiced Brandied Cherries recipe to half Brandy/half Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur to Italianise it and swapped the Bings for the Rainiers. One suggestion – buy a good cherry pipper. It saves all that hand-to-mouth business and the odd cracked tooth.

This is not the best photo of a jar of preserved cherries. 

Preserved White Cherries

So here’s something better.

Redheads in Jar

I snapped this odd display in a Sydney CBD optometrist’s window and have been dying to use it ever since. Strangely appealing I think.

Italy loves its preserved cherries. The Fabbri brand, founded in 1905 near Bologna as a distillery and still family-owned, is going strong selling its Amarena cherries in syrup (in the unmistakeable blue and white ceramic jars) world-wide.

The use of cherries on household furnishings and dress fabrics was popular years ago, but not so much these days. If you’re my vintage you probably had a frock or blouse with cherries on it. Unless you’re a male. Here’s proof that Christmas is cherry celebration time: a lovely dress made by my mother with cherries on the bodice. Hands off, Santa!AmbraXmas

It’s the last day of summer, and I’m hot and plan to cool off with this Cherry Muddler. So should you.

Cherry Muddler

You might also like this Maraschino Cherries recipe and blog post from the archives. 

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Lurking in the Cupboard: Rosso Antico, the Prince of Aperitifs

December 31, 2014

If there’s one thing nicer than an Italian aperitif, it’s a good aperitif glass. Lucky then that the ‘curiosities’ section of my mother’s sideboard was able to deliver the goods.

Neatly hidden from view were two remaining glasses from her original Rosso Antico set of eight. I’d borrowed them long ago to use in an ironic 1960s-70s kind of way, put them back and forgotten about them.

Rosso Antico glasses

Rosso Antico (Ancient red) was invented in Italy in 1962 and soon became the aperitif of choice. It was known as ‘the prince of aperitifs’ and featured heavily in promotional segments of popular Italian TV sketch show Carosello.* Here in Australia, Italian Australians took to it with gusto.

An aromatised wine – with 32 herbs including sage, rosemary and thyme (yes really, but no parsley) – Rosso Antico is deep ruby red and bittersweet, with an aftertaste of peel and spices. In some circles it was considered (cruelly I think) the poor cousin of other Italian aperitifs like Campari or Aperol but was often substituted in drinks where they were used.

Back then, the glasses with the Rosso Antico moniker were nearly always promotional giveaways. One glass was included in a fancy box with each bottle purchase, so depending on how much you entertained, you either built up a set of eight very quickly or never. My parents’ circle of friends loved it at dinner parties served straight up, with a slice of orange or soda water.

I associate the trends of the time with it: wide ties and sideburns for the men, palazzo pants and big hair for the ladies and a look of disdain on our teenage faces. We were, after all, just discovering Harvey Wallbangers.

Rosso AnticoRossoAnticoHead

After its initial popularity, it was withdrawn from sale in the late 1970s due to one of the ingredient’s perceived carcinogenic qualities. It re-surfaced, but I lost touch with it until I spied some recently in a Sydney bottle shop. It’s had a design makeover (I’m guessing) to entice people to substitute it for Campari in their Negronis. I’m pretty sure there are new, bigger promotional glasses too, but I prefer the originals. All related advertising at the time carried the words: ‘‘Rosso Antico’ – l’aperitivo che si beve in coppa” meaning the aperitif should be drunk in ‘coupe” glasses, similar in shape to the saucer glasses preferred for champagne during the swinging ’60s. The glasses, with their shallow bowls on top of slender stems are now only used for cocktails, so the Rosso Antico marketers will have had to come up with a new tagline.

Aperitifs done and dusted, I’ve also put the glasses to good use for the leftover Christmas cherry granita.

CherryGranita2

The Gelato Messina Cookbook published in late 2013 includes a recipe for Rosso Antico and Marmalade gelato. So it’s definitely trending.

PS – For Italian speakers, you might enjoy this 1974 Rosso Antico animated advertisement inspired by the fairytale ‘The Princess in the Well’.  
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Italian Shandy – just add Campari

May 1, 2014

‘I have a head for business, and a bod for sin …’ 

There I go, talking about myself again.

Well, it’s actually a quote from Mike Nichols’ clever 1988 rom-com Working Girl.

The quote – which Melanie Griffith cooed to Harrison Ford in a bar – came to mind when I was sneaking in another favourite summer drink before the temperature plummets.

I’ve long been a Shandy drinker, much to the horror of friends who are serious about their craft beers. So I was thrilled when I found a recipe that changed the lemonade/beer combination into something Italian/Australian, something friends couldn’t snigger at.  CampariShandy

The Campari Shandy is a great discovery. When you’ve worked through the frothy foam on top, you get to the slinky, sexy stuff beneath. Just like the scene in the film.

I first heard the word Shandy used in relation to the ‘Ladies Lounge’ signs I’d seen in Sydney’s inner-west pubs. Gender segregation in Australian pubs banned women from the public bar to the lounge prior to the 1970s and Shandies were popular drinks. By the time I was old enough to experience a Ladies’ Lounge, the bans were lifted following mass protests by women, a few even chaining themselves to bar rails.

I don’t think Italy has Shandies, so I don’t know how Italians would feel about their favourite bitter-sweet aperitif being mixed with beer. It might be too, too much for the purists upset by the decision in 2006 by the Campari company to stop using crushed cochineal beetles following pressure from vegetarian groups.

Then again, those who are unhappy about the ‘new’ Campari and claim that it’s one-dimensional and has lost its three distinct layers, are moving to Aperol in protest and probably wouldn’t care about the new, chemically coloured Campari smothered with a few glugs of beer.

Campari Shandy for one:

. 50 ml Campari

. 300 ml light-coloured beer

. 1 lemon or lime wedge

Pour the beer over the Campari – obviously.

PS – The late, great Roger Ebert loved Working Girl too.

 

 

 

 

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Caffè Shakerato – with a nod to Frank Sinatra

April 8, 2014

It’s with a heavy heart that I bid a fond farewell to a new-found summer friend.

The Caffè Shakerato has been my drink of choice lately, but is meant for long, hot afternoons rather than our current autumn weather.

Not quite a frappé, and certainly not an iced coffee, the Caffè Shakerato is made from espresso coffee, sugar and ice cubes shaken vigorously to create a chilled coffee with a frothy crema.

The Shakerato has been popular in Italy for a few years but I had trouble finding one in Sydney. There’s a smattering of newish inner-city cafes offering it, but the three old-style Italian cafes I visited had never heard the term and, judging by their baristas’ shrugs of indifference, weren’t in a hurry to embrace it.

Keen to make one myself, I needed to ramp up the sultry atmosphere to accompany all the grinding and shaking.

I remembered a novelty coffee tune with an uptempo beat and absurd lyrics that I first heard decades ago and had stubbornly stayed with me.

The Coffee Song was first sung by Frank Sinatra in 1946 and seemed perfect for exercising my samba legs. Also known as They’ve Got an Awful lot of Coffee in Brazil, it lampoons Brazil’s coffee glut and the inventive ways the Brazilians found to consume it. It starts off  …

Way down among Brazilians

Coffee beans grow by the billions

So they’ve got to find those extra cups to fill

They’ve got an awful lot of coffee in Brazil

 

You can’t get cherry soda

’cause they’ve got to fill that quota

And the way things are I’ll bet they never will

They’ve got a zillion tons of coffee in Brazil

… and The Coffee Song  gets even nuttier further along, ending with signor Sinatra attempting an indistinguishable foreign accent.  I couldn’t help thinking he had an awful lot of Spanglish in his words.

For a Caffè Shakerato, you’ll need:

. 1 espresso coffee – hot

. 1/2 tsp caster sugar (or sugar syrup)

. 6 small ice cubes

~Shake ingredients in a cocktail shaker for about 30 seconds until ice is almost ~melted. Strain into a statement glass. (You could add a dash of liqueur too).

This now completes my list of summer coffee favourites including the affogato and granita di caffè con panna (with cream on top).

 

Screen shot 2014-04-07 at 6.54.12 PM

 

Here’s a full version of the tune (which was later covered by Sam Cooke and The Andrews Sisters among others: The Coffee Song/They’ve Got an Awful lot of Coffee in Brazil 

Any other sightings of the Shakerato are welcome.

 

 

 

 

 

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An Excuse for a Haiku

March 5, 2014

~~~

A blog name inspired by film director Sergio Leone

A kick-ass cocktail in his honour

Spaghetti Western – I’m a little drunk on you

~~~

~~~

Recipe for this killer drink courtesy Food Republic using the new (to Australia) SOLERNO Blood Orange Liqueur

Giddyup!

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Lurking in the Cupboard #4: Metal Food Tins

January 23, 2013

I like attractive food packaging almost as much as I like good food and I’m a sucker for a well-designed metal canister. There’s something about the coloured, patterned enamel I find irresistible. It all started many years ago with my parents buying 3-litre Italian olive oil cans – the KING of tins – and my collection keeps growing. 

Red Amaretti bicuit tin

One of my favourite metal tins holds my favourite sweet treats: Amaretti di Saronno almond-flavoured macaroons wrapped in coloured paper. Sadly, the Lazzaroni brand is now hard to find in Australia outside of Easter or Christmas. Delicious with coffee, liqueur or as a cheesecake crust, they have a nice folksy legend around their creation – involving a Milanese bishop, a young couple and crushed apricot kernels.http://blogs.transparent.com/italian/gli-amaretti-di-saronno/

FrangelicoTin&Bottle     

This elegant orange embossed canister appeals to me more than the Frangelico bottle inside. The dark bottle, shaped like a monk’s habit, has a few too many elements I think. My fashion advice to the designers would have been “Before you head out the door, take one thing off.” (Coco Chanel). I like the hazelnut flavoured liqueur On the Rocks or in this flourless chocolate Frangelico cake http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Flourless-Chocolate-Hazelnut-Cake-241088

anchovies in tin

If you don’t like hairy fish, turn away now. I like to eat anchovies the way my father did: on a slice of crusty Italian bread spread with a layer of rock-hard unsalted butter (has to be thick, no namby-pamby scrapings) then with anchovies laid on top. Heaven. The Rizzoli brand is my favourite as they’re packed in good virgin olive oil.

Tinned mackeral

I can’t find the Mackeral brand I used to buy in the bright yellow tins anymore, so have settled for something less colourful. My serving suggestion for a quick snack: tip mackeral fillets onto a plate with some roasted garlic pieces, chopped continental parsley and cracked pepper. Eat with toast. Don’t breathe.

Italian sweets in tin

How do you counter mackeral breath? Try these Bianconeri ‘Confetti alla Liquirizia’ (sugar-coated, mint-flavoured liquorice lollies). The packaging is gorgeous, with the white pebble-shaped sweets under a layer of delicate paper in the hinged tin. Don’t let the cute frolicking children on the lid fool you – these are seriously strong sweets.

And the best part is they make great storage containers for kitchen utensils, spare coins, dry food, nuts ‘n bolts. Upcycling at its best. Metal canisters – TAKE A BOW!

Metal food canisters

 

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Maraschino: A Tale of Two Cherries

November 24, 2012

First it was lavender, ginger and gardening. Now I’m embracing fruit preserved in liqueur – and I’m a wee bit scared.

It was the grappa-soaked cherries accompanying the roast duck main that did it for me and I’ve been back to the Italian restaurant in Sydney twice now just for that dish.

Maraschino cherry posterThis image on my fridge door is suddenly more than a replica of an 1874 Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur poster – it’s a call to bottling and preserving. Luxardo is an Italian distillery famous for the production of the clear, almond flavoured liqueur made from marasca cherries. The small, sour cherries originating from Croatia are now also grown near Padova in north-eastern Italy where the distillery is based.

Most people are familiar with the maraschino cherry: garnish of choice on a Black Forest cake, bottom dweller in the classic Manhattan cocktail, child magnet* on a banana split. These garish red specimens bear no resemblance to the real Maraschino cherries that were once steeped in their namesake liqueur. The modern manufacturing process, invented by food scientists in the US, includes soaking in salt brine to remove their natural colour and flavour, pitting, more soaking in a sweetener for around a month before a final dip in artificial colouring and benzaldehyde (almond flavour) which was often confused with formaldehyde. And probably prompting a food critic to describe the cherries as “the culinary equivalent of an embalmed corpse.”

Real Maraschino soaked cherries are lovely but impossible to find now, with Luxardo selling their substitute preserved Marasca cherries in syrup, not liqueur. With the stone fruit season just round the corner in Australia, I’m suddenly very keen to try preserving local cherries in liqueur. I might even go one step further and try Stephanie Alexander’s cumquats in brandy.

Luxardo Maraschino liqueur bottleHere’s a recipe for Maraschino Cherries soaked in Maraschino liqueur (available at specialist liqueur suppliers such as Amato’s in Leichhardt) and worth buying for the raffia-wrapped green bottle alone.

* As I write this, a scene from Sergio Leone’s gangster epic Once Upon a Time in America (1984) comes to mind. The young boy buys a small cake to trade for his virginity, but decides to eat it instead, obviously tempted by the suggestive cherry atop the cream. I hope it was the real thing.

Luxardo bottle image: Jay Hepburn

I’ve just discovered that blogger pal Paola from ‘Italy on my Mind’ has written about cherries too. Here’s her recipe for a delicious Hungarian Cherry Cake.

Related posts about liqueurs: 

https://ambradambra.wordpress.com/2012/09/22/the-coffee-cocktail-murder-on-the-dancefloor/

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