The Amalfi

With neighbors like Pompei, Sorrento and Positano, you know the Amalfi Coast is in good company. This southern Italian getaway brings the best of Italy together: breath-taking scenery, oceanic daydreaming, fresh cuisine and tourist-pampered indulgences. That was the inspiration behind this next drink, The Amalfi; I wanted to bring together some of the best that the boot has to offer, from the Venetian popularized Prosecco, to an old guard Amaro, to some of the continent’s best produce.

Italian sunshine in a glass!

Italian sunshine in a glass!

Amaro is a classic herbal spirit (often used as a digestivo) that can be both fruity and bitter. The Amaro Bolognese produced by Montenegro is my personal choice because it tends to show off more dried fruit flavors while escaping the nasty side of other Italian bitters like a Fernet Branca. One sip (if you can get past the smell) of Fernet Branca and you’ll swear off such liqueurs forever. Actually you’ll just swear a lot and wonder who dipped your tongue into iodine. Luckily, Montenegro is nothing like that.

Combine three parts Prosecco, one part of the Amalfi Coast’s famed limoncello (in this case I used the batch I enjoyed making this spring with the mayor of Rocky Hill) and a splash or two of Montenegro Amaro – depending on your herbal aptitude. Shake well and gently pour over several blood orange slices and ice.

The Prosecco will cause a little bubbly action so take it slow. The combination of limoncello and oranges create a nice sunshine like glow in the glass while simultaneously producing a popping citrus-like prowess.

Guest Blogger: The Mayor talks Cava

* The final post of Spanish Week features guest blogger, Lou Arpino – The Mayor of Rocky Hill

The Spanish came to the New World in search of sparkling gems and metals. Today, they are returning the favor by sending us a sparkling liquid in the form of Cava wine.

Poetry in a glass

Poetry in a glass

In the US, Cava has become a very acceptable, economical alternative to French Champagne. The Spanish produce Cava using the same “traditional” fermentation method used in the French Champagne industry, but they have added a unique automatic riddling process which eliminates the costly hand process used by the French to slowly remove yeast sediment which builds up in the bottle during the fermentation process.

Cava is produced in a number of regions in Spain, with Catalan being the largest producer. Three grapes are blended to produce Cava. Referred to as the “holy trinity” by Spanish winemakers, a blend of Macabeo, Xarello and Perllada are blended in varying degrees (depending on annual growing conditions and the personal preferences of each winemaker) into each bottle of Cava.

Just like its French cousin, Cava comes in a range of dryness depending on its sugar content. 
Cava has an alcohol content of between 12 and 14 percent and can be generally described as having an aroma of light yeast and biscuit, a flavor of orange, pear or green apple and a smooth, slightly acidic finish. Cava, when poured, treats you to lively, youth full bubbles and a creamy mousse.

Keep in mind that Cava is a younger wine compared to Champagne, so it has a shorter shelf life, usually one to two years. 
You may be surprised to know that because Cava is inexpensive and very approachable it has become the largest selling sparkling wine in the world.

So, what are you waiting for? Your wine retailer should have a selection of Cavas in his or her sparkling wine section, give one a try the next time you are about to grab that bottle of Champagne or Prosecco.

Limoncello with the Mayor of Rocky Hill

Zen and the Art of ZestingThis past Tuesday, I got together with an old colleague for my third attempt at limoncello. What I discovered between round one and round two made a world of difference in the final product. First, don’t use any pure grain alcohol (PGA) or Golden Grain when concocting this homemade hooch. Instead, opt for a 100 proof vodka (Smirnoff blue label works well) and be thankful you paid a little more. Likewise, spring for some organic lemons. You’ll have no nuance of a chemical component in the final product since the lemons (and thus skins) aren’t treated with mouth-numbing carcinogens.

Lou & Lemons

My second experience in making limoncello also taught me to use big, fat lemons. Handling and zesting the little guys can get tricky and it’s hard enough just to keep the white pith from the lemon zest. My friend, Lou “the Mayor of Rocky Hills” demonstrates the perfectly zested lemon. Here is just another instance in which that Fine Italian Hand comes in… well… handy.

There are a hundred recipes on line for limoncello and most are fairly similar. Using only four ingredients (vodka, lemons, sugar and water) means these little tips will be the difference between good limoncello and furniture cleaner.

After the zesting is complete, the vodka is poured over top then sealed and stored for anywhere from two to four weeks. Ours is resting in this airtight plastic gallon drum, where we will revisit it in March for step two which involves the addition of some simple syrup and a little more Italian patience.