Monday, 5 April 2010

Adding some camp to Campari...

I have to admit, the end of Lent gets me itchy and excited. My enforced teetotal abstinence is coming to an end (I feel that if I am entitled to a holiday, why shouldn’t my liver!?) and I crave the most knockout of drinks rather than a simple glass of wine; gins, vodkas, light coloured spirits, Negroni Sbagliatos. Negroni Sbagliatos? Ok, so not an obvious choice.

Down the dark, narrow streets, firmly in the Centro Storico of Rome, minutes from the Piazza Navona and close to the Sant’Angelo Bridge and Pantheon, is a buzzing bar, heaving with all sorts of Romans and tourists: Antico Caffe della Pace. It was here I tried my first real Negroni, and here also, that I discovered its slightly more fey but infinitely more enjoyable sister, the Sbagliato.

The Negroni, according to the cocktail books of old, is 1/3 Cinzano Rosso, 1/3 Campari and 1/3 gin, served in a shot glass with ice and a twist of lemon peel; bitter herbs from the Campari (the drink of the Romans) mix with nutty gin and the sweeter lifting vermouth of Cinzano Rosso. The lemon peel continuing to bridge the bitter elements, the ice punching through the heavy elements of the liquors.

Where the Sbagliato differs is the lack of gin, instead using Prosecco. More frivolous, more drinkable and less likely to make you keel over mid conversation. Served in a longer glass, the same measures apply for the Campari and the Cinzano Rosso, pour the blend over the ice and then top up the glass with Prosecco. Finally, add a full, fat, round slice of orange not a peel of lemon. Lighter in flavour the bitter herbs are sweetened by the lemon and apple elements of the sparkling wine. Complementing this is the orange slice which again serves to bring the herbs and bitterness together with the sweeter vermouth elements and, of course, the light fruits of the wine.

Salivatingly satisfying, hugely restorative and better than chocolate... well almost... Happy Easter.

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