The Italian Manhattan Project: Un Cappello da Uomo Perfetto

In which I try to create an “Italian Manhattan” but wind up blindly reinventing…one of my favorite classics

I’d say I “invented” this one, but I’m fast learning that claims of beverage authorship rank among amateur drinksters’ most dangerous lies, along with “I’ve only had two” and “I picked up the check last time.”

More about this below.

But here’s the story: I began playing around with an “Italian Manhattan” over a year ago, when I discovered the lovely Italian apertif Cocchi Americano, collected a few Italian amari, and fell into mixocological rumination.

The right amaro, I reasoned, could plausibly stand in for red vermouth, the Cocchi for white, yielding a kind of Manhattan Perfetto. [A “Perfect Manhattan” is a version of the classic whose vermouth dose is equally split between dry and sweet. A more complex version, an acquired taste.]

A Measured Spirit Craig Stoltz cocktail recipe blog
Un Cappello da Uomo Perfetto, aka the Italian Manhattan. Created in Bethesda, Maryland by way of Brooklyn. Not Italy.

This turned out to be harder than I hoped — even to my palate, weakened by years of actually drinking my failed experiments instead of dumping them in a shoe like a proper gentleman.

The Cocchi comes across like a herbal, slightly citrus-y vermouth with a surprising bitter finish that to me “dries” it out.

This led me to seek balance with what turned out to be either too much amaro, the wrong amaro, or both. I tried Averna, Cynar, Ramazzotti, and the unpalatable [I don’t care what “they” say] Fernet-Branca. The vermouth stand-ins swamped, overwhelmed, or disrespected the rye, all without bringing much sweetness to the effort. The whole thing was just a lot of bickering in a glass.

So I got out of the Italian Manhattan business entirely for about six months. [Into the creative vacuum rushed among other things the Hillbilly Martini, which I’m not sure was a productive diversion.]

But then, not long ago, I made an Old Fashioned sweetened with Maraschino liqueur. I loved it. Back into my brainpan oozed the Italian Manhattan Project. Maybe if I relieved the amaro of the burden of sweetening… Continue reading “The Italian Manhattan Project: Un Cappello da Uomo Perfetto”

Introducing: The Hillbilly Martini

Martinis aren’t much more interesting than the people who drink them. Time to give the snooty kid a good hard wedgie.

It’s not that I hate Martinis exactly. It’s more that they’re tedious, like a salad at Cosi or an episode of CSI. You know what you’re getting. They accomplish what they set out to do.

They should call any mixture of gin and vermouth a “Meh-tini.”

And of course the name Martini has been desecrated since the late Clinton administration by the reckless use of flavored vodkas and day-glo sweeteners, resulting in happy hour chalkboards nationwide filled with several varieties of “[WTF]-tinis” for $5.

Then there are the cultural connotations of the drink: haughty, heeled well, self-satisfied  — “classy,” as interpreted by those who view it from below.

What could I do to a Martini, I asked myself, that would inflict culinary interest and cultural disorder  — and still make a great drink? Continue reading “Introducing: The Hillbilly Martini”