Wine is fine, but wine and liquor…
Working at Saltwater Farm Vineyard it is easy to opt for a glass of wine over a cocktail; actually, the wine is one of the perks of the job. However, with the holidays upon us, there will be many occasions to enjoy a drink or two with good company, and really, there are only so many glasses of wine to be had before you might start craving something a little different.
As not to stray too far from our wine drinking roots, I have altered the classic Venetian wine cocktail, a spritz, and given it a holiday in New England twist.
Bitter Cider Spritz
1 part Campari
2 parts slightly oaked white wine
1 part sparkling cider (or more, depending on how strong you like it)
splash spiced simple syrup (recipe at bottom)
Serve in glass of choice over ice. I use a large rocks glass, but a wine glass would work just as well. Garnish with an orange twist and cinnamon stick.
A bit about the spritz…
A classic Venetian spritz is a combination of wine (usually sparkling, like prosecco), a bitter flavored liquor (of which there are several, however, they do not seem to suit the mainstream American palate) and sparkling water. In Venice, a spritz is traditionally served as an aperitif, a drink to be had before a meal, generally with a palate cleansing effect. While doing a little research for this post, I read that there is a small bar, Caffe Rosso, in Venice that boasts serving 10,000 of these cocktails a day. Although I have yet to verify this personally, it is safe to say they might be onto something.
Bitter is a flavor that most Americans have a natural aversion to it, at best, it is considered an acquired taste. Arguably the most bitter of liquors, Campari, is one that I have discovered a new found affinity towards, and it just happens to be the spirit of choice for this drink. Campari, which has been in production since the 1900s, has a heavily guarded secret recipe, however rumor has it rhubarb and ginseng may be two of the ingredients. With herbal, boarding on vegetal notes it is not the easiest of sells, but I stand by my fondness of it and offer an introductory cocktail that may just get you on board.
To give it a New England twist, I suggest opting for a slightly oaked white wine (I know a place…), and for the bubbling component, using sparkling cider. To step it up a notch, homemade spiced simple syrup can add just enough distraction from the Compari to satisfy even the most finicky drinker. Hosting a party? Consider premixing the Campari, wine and simple syrup in a pitcher and let your guests add as much sparkling cider as they’d like, a sure way to ease everyone into this unaccustomed aperitif.
Cheers to drinking outside of the box,
Spiced Simple Syrup
Combine equal parts of sugar and water in a sauce pan over medium heat.
Add orange zest, star anise, cinnamon sticks and clove to taste.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer for 10 minutes. For a milder flavor, remove some or all of the spices.
Strain, and transfer into glass container (I use a small oil dispenser).
Have extra? This makes a great sweetener for just about any winter drink or cocktail; think sangria, martinis, hot ciders, or even your morning tea.