Now that Autumn is upon us and winter lurking in the nearby shadows, Jillian and I will be spending a lot more time at home.
This is great for a couple of reasons, most of which are irrelevant to this entry. Chiefly, it means we'll be spending more time making meals at home rather than dining out... we both like to fool around in the kitchen (and we like to cook, too). She's a good cook, and like me is prone to experimenting and tinkering with recipes.
As too many cooks spoil the soup, I've decided to leave the majority of the culinary artistry to her... so that I can concentrate on my one true passion: booze.
It has been a long time since I've written about my experiments with mixed drinks and, truth told, I rather miss it. So today, as we prepared to do the dishes, I walked over to the liquor cabinet so that I could fix myself a drink.
You may find this hard to believe, but I enjoy doing the dishes. When I was single, it was how I relaxed. Every Sunday afternoon shortly before 2pm, I'd fix myself a drink, then fire Nadia up so I could listen to my favourite internet radio show, Pepperland Spicerack, on Luxuriamusic.com. I'd sit there for a couple of hours, washing my dishes and enjoying some good tunes while sipping whatever concoction I'd mixed.
Usually, that concoction would be one of a few standbys: French-style Pernod (1oz Pernod, 4oz water [or to taste]), my secret Martini recipe, a Vermouth Cassis, a Sazerac, or more often than not, a Campari & Soda. Social drinks, not the "wake-up-in-the-bathtub-with-a-black-eye-your-pants-on-backwards-and-your-shoes-on-the-wrong-feet-despite-having-drank-alone" variety.
Today, I decided on Campari & Soda... and today, I'm going to tell you how I make it.
First, a disclaimer: Campari isn't for everyone. It is the epitome of an acquired taste (much like Punt e Mes). It's a bitter herbal liquer that has a rather "floral" flavour. Upon sampling my drink at a company outing one year, my friend Darrin described Campari's flavour as "licking a Wizard air freshener". Which I thought was harsh... potpourri perhaps, but Wizard air freshener? Come on...
Anyway, if you've never tried Campari before, you may want to use a bit more soda and a bit less Campari, at least until you get used to it (usually around the third glass). The bitter taste will make some of you cringe.
Second, use fresh soda water. I have a soda siphon (aka seltzer bottle) and make my own seltzer water using Brita-filtered tap water and CO2 cartridges... this really is the best method (and the used cartridges can be recycled with gunpowder as explosive warheads for model rockets, if those horribly spelled textfiles I got from an obscure gopher site are to be believed!). If you'd rather not bother with making your ownsoda water, you can always buy it. It's usually with the bottled water at the store and dirt cheap. Try to use Sparkling Water over Club Soda if you can, and use a fresh bottle... flat Club Soda or Sparking Water will kill a cocktail.
Third, and I can't stress this enough, do not use ice. Ice will dilute the flavour. The trick is to use a pre-chilled highball glass to keep your drink cool. If you really must use ice, cut back proportionally on the amount of soda water you use. In fact, I'd recommend this approach to all mixed drinks.
Got all that? Good. Here's the ratio I prefer.
Pour 4oz Campari into your pre-chilled highball glass.
Fill the rest with soda water/seltzer.
Garnish with a slice of lemon, lime, or orange.
It'll take time to find a ratio you like, In Europe, they prefer a stronger mix, and in the US they seem to prefer a weaker mix and frequently use ice. If you like it, you may also want to try adding a dash of gin, orange flower water, and/or a couple of drops of Angostura Bitters to your drink... it really adds that je ne sais quoi.
Campari is (was?) also available in Europe in bottled form as "Campari Soda", using a rather iconic bottle. I have had the pleasure of drinking a bottled Campari Soda years ago and loved it. I still have one unopened bottle kicking around... if I can find it, I'll post a picture.
The above picture shows the finished product, a third of a bottle of Campari, and my soda siphon, along with a green bowl full of orange mush.
"What is that orange mush, Mr. Jerk?" you may ask.
I hear you ask. That, my friends, is a failed experiment.
Jillian, her mom, and I were in Gimli several times this past summer, and on one occasion we went to the "fancy" restaurant (whose name escapes me... Beachcomber?) in the resort. One of the dessert specials was a bowl of orange sorbet with an ounce of Campari drizzled over top.
Now, CJ likes his Campari as well as his sorbet, so of course this intrigued me. Unfortunately for me, I was on antibiotics and couldn't have any alcohol... so I committed this dessert to memory.
A couple of weeks ago, while I was battling a wicked cold, Jillian brought me a tub of orange sherbet to soothe my throat. I'd had a bit, but I made sure to save some of the sherbet so that I could make this dessert once I was off my cough medicine.
Today, while I was making myself a drink, I decided to make the dessert. My friends, I suffer so you don't have to.
Today I learned something the hard way... SHERBET AND SORBET ARE NOT THE SAME THING!
Sorbet, like Italian Ice, is made of frozen water and fruit. Sherbet is made of fruit and ice milk.
It tasted alright... at first. The flavour was nice, the sweet orange taste of the sherbet provided a nice counterbalance to the bitterness of the (straight) Campari. But the flavour got more and more muddled as the sherbet melted... ultimately tasting of lead. It was rather disgusting. I thought the milk was curdling right before my eyes!
Suffice it to say, I won't be doing that again. I will however try to find some real sorbet to see if I can make this work.
Wish me luck!