The Italian Goddess
As Daffy’s hits the shelves and back bars in Italy this month, this week I made my first ever trip to Milan to get to know their drinking culture, and as always experience their first class hospitality.
Amaro I Amore
Hosted at a trade event by our distributors Enoteca Bottazzi, we introduced the Goddess to the Italian market. From my travels I have Iearnt the importance of showcasing cocktails that appeal to the tastes of consumers within that culture, and in the case of Italy, the obvious choice was bitterness. In the UK we have seen a revival in the aperitivo style of drinking, with classic Italian amaros, which simply translates as “bitter” like Averna, Fernet Branca and of course Campari featuring on many a cocktail menu. However Italy’s love for bitterness dates back centuries, where the often misunderstood flavour gives character to much loved Italian wines. Nowadays, bitter is the in thing among the trade but it’s almost a cliché for a bartender to order a Negroni. There is a reason however why people do develop a taste for bitterness and why bartenders in particular are more likely to develop a profound love for Amaro. Throughout evolution, avoiding bitter has been a key to survival, as our palates have been trained to associate bitter with poison. Palates can however be trained, and since those working in the trade are often exposed to new products, their taste buds can become more accustomed to these flavours overtime.
The Daffy’s cocktail which hit the spot at the event was a twist on the classic Martinez cocktail. While the Martinez has experienced various interpretations over the years, my go to recipe is a well-balanced blend of gin, sweet vermouth, maraschino liqueur and orange bitters. On arriving at my stand I met Thomas from ABK6 Cognac who introduced me to a unique cognac honey liqueur which I thought would make an interesting addition to the cocktail. The honey offered some warming undertones to the drink while the maraschino provides the dry flavours to offset the sweetness, with the right amount of bitter to please the crowd. Perfect for the fast approaching cold weather in Scotland! I must also give credit to my latest essential travel accessory, the Bronzer Heritage Barware Leather roll bag, courtesy of Love Tiki. The kit provides all the necessary tools for cocktails, and to my surprise, made it through security without the blink of an eye! It will certainly come in handy for the future masterclasses and cocktail evenings we have already lined up for the next trip to Italy, and hopefully keep my style on par with the Milanese.
In Vino Veritas
My time in Milan was brief, but fortunately, presenting at the trade show allowed me to sample an exceptional array of wine, champagne and local produce without leaving the venue. Some of the stand outs for me included a 2012 Barolo Serre, produced by Gianni Gagliardo family. The family have numerous vineyards in the Piedmont region and this particular variety is made from 100% nebbiolo grapes from their Castelletto vineyard in the Monteforte D’alba. I was told 2012 did not experience ideal weather conditions, in fact the dry, hot summer produced the lowest yield in the last 50 years. Minimal rainfall in winter was followed by a freezing February with heavy snowfall. Spring however witnessed a very rainy season which offset the drought of previous months, which was then reinforced by unexpected heavy rainfall early in September, changing the fate of the harvest and producing a very balanced ripening. Barolo is one of my favourite wines, and this particular wine was a perfect balance of depth, deep fruits and acidity.
Another favourite of mine was the Blanc de Blancs Martel Champagne. This zesty, full bodied champagne with just the right amount of acidity was a delicious expression of the house and the subtle vanilla notes paired beautifully with the buffalo camembert cheese on offer. I must say, the world of champagne is something I know little about, but I spent some time chatting to Corrine Couchou-Meillot, G.H Martel’s export manager, and was surprised to learn that the UK is the world’s biggest export market for Champagne! With the gin market exploding, it’s no wonder the classic French 75 cocktail, a simple pairing of gin, lemon, sugar and champagne, has seen a resurgence in the UK.
My Italian Martinez
- 37.5mls Daffy’s Gin
- 15mls ABK6 cognac honey liqueur
- 15mls Berto Ross da Travaj Vermouth di Torino
- 10mls Maraschino liqueur
- 2 dashes orange bitters
Stir over ice and strain into Martini glass. Garnish with lemon peel.