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Wine & Spirits
Cocktail of the Week
Georgetowner • February 22, 2011
Foggy Bottom’s Founding Farmers, along with its sister restaurant Farmers and Fishers, are already known as among the hottest spots in DC for handcrafted cocktails. The restaurants, both renowned for their farm-fresh produce, fine spirits, and homemade mixers and juices, sport an evolving drink menu designed by chief mixologist Chef Jon Arroyo.
New for spring at Founding Farmers is Arroyo’s customizable menu of juleps and cobblers. While most imbibers are familiar with juleps due to the popularity of mint juleps, the cobbler cocktail may be an unfamiliar concept for many casual drinkers.
The word cobbler conjures up visions of pastry dishes soaked with baked ripened fruits. Webster’s dictionary sports two edible definitions for cobbler.
1. A deep-dish fruit dessert with a thick top crust.
2. A tall sweetened iced drink of wine or liquor with fruit.
The original cobbler cocktail, according to Arroyo, was made with sherry. It was one of the most popular libations during the last half of the nineteenth century. Because cobblers were made with fresh fruit and sugar they were among the first cocktails to be shaken.
Early cobblers were very sweet and fancy cocktails. They were garnished beautifully with fresh berries. It became known as a ladies’ tipple, but in Arroyo’s opinion it is definitely not a ladies’ drink.
Perhaps the most exciting element of Founding Farmer’s new menu is the concept that the drinks will be customized for each customer—male or female—based on their spirits preference.
On the blistery Tuesday that I sat down with Arroyo, he asked me what type of liquor I was in the mood for. Feeling a bit chilled, I requested a bourbon drink. Off to work he went, preparing me a personalized cocktail.
All of the cobblers at Founding Farmers will start with some basic ingredients: muddled lemon, lime, orange, along with bitters and sugar. The remaining ingredients will take the direction of the spirit requested.
For the base spirit, Arroyo chose Knob Creek Bourbon. “There’s dryness to the Knob Creek which balances out the fruit,” Arroyo said. “I like it because it’s a big bourbon with a lot of spice. You’re going to know you’re drinking it.”
Arroyo’s first augmentation to my cocktail was the Angostura brand of bitters, but the flavor of bitters used in each cobbler will depend on the type of liquor. Next he added homemade ginger syrup, because he likes the spice that ginger adds to bourbon. In the spirit of tradition, he plopped in a bit of red wine Malbec, in lieu of sherry. But for me, the most curiously wonderful addition was the touch of absinthe
The finished cocktail was a taste explosion on my tongue. It had a robust fruit-forward flavor up front while the boldness of the bourbon warmed my mouth with an earthy goodness. While I was a bit hesitant about the Absinthe, it turned out to be a key ingredient. Its herbaceous quality tied the variety of fruity and spicy elements together in a delightful symphony.
While the drink was served in a pretty metal julep glass and garnished daintily with fresh berries and mint leaves, I agreed with Arroyo that it was decidedly not a ladies only drink. Its complexity and freshness provided many layers of flavor that any discerning drinker would enjoy. And yes, I could definitely taste the bourbon.
Arroyo’s spring cocktail menu debuted in February, and he assured me that all the bartenders at Founding Farmers will be well trained in making the customizable cocktails. “Depending on the spirit you choose,” he said “The bartender will choose the direction for the cocktail.”
Latte di Chocolate di Basil
Georgetowner • February 9, 2011
The Italian language has a beautiful ring with lyrical words that dance with alliteration. When “Eat Pray Love” author Elizabeth Gilbert decided to study Italian during the course of her divorce, she described “every word as a singing sparrow, a magic trick, a truffle.” According to Gilbert, “Speaking these words made me feel sexy and happy.”
So it’s no surprise that many of Italy’s contributions to the seductive realm of cocktails boast monikers that roll off the tongue like romantic prose … Prosecco, Bellini, Campari, and Negroni.
The Museum of the American Cocktail (MOTAC) recently celebrated Italy’s contribution to the cocktail world with an event at the Occidental Grill.
Phil Greene,MOTAC founding member, kicked off the event by discussing the history behind the Bellini, a refreshing mix of peach and sparkling wine made famous at Harry’s bar in Venice and the Negroni, which is named after Count Camillo Negroni. World-renowned PS-7 bar chef Gina Chersevani, an Italian-American, continued the theme by sharing her family recipe for Limoncello and the Trieste Spritz. Attendees also learned about various brands of Italian liqueurs including Campari, Aperol, Fernet Branca and Luxardo.
The evening was capped off with Gina’s chocolate ice cream cocktail featuring Averna Amaro.
Amaro, meaning “bitter” in Italian, is an herbal liqueur, usually enjoyed after dinner. Amaro is produced by macerating herbs, roots, flowers, bark and citrus peels in alcohol, mixing them with sugar syrup, and allowing it to age in casks or bottles.
Averna is an Amaro produced on the island of Sicily, which is named after its inventor, Salvatore Averna, who developed his recipe in 1868. According to Gina, whose mom is from Sicily, this traditional liqueur is often served alone or with coffee.
Gina invented her Averna cocktail to pair with a chocolate basil cake at PS-7. She was trying to think of something to tie the two ingredients (chocolate and basil) together when it dawned on her to use Averna. “It has a certain herbaceous quality to it,” she says, “and rich overtones of nuts”
While Averna Amaro has been made in Italy for over 140 years, Gina said it disappeared from the US temporarily. Only in the last two or three years did it begin importing back into the US.
Gina told a delightful story about a family gathering at her aunt’s home, where the lady of the house presented Gina’s father with a bottle of Averna that they drank with coffee.
Gina told her father that the Avema makes a great chocolate milkshake, to which he replied, ”You know you mom doesn’t allow me to have milkshakes.”
But later that evening, alone at Gina’s house, her father coyly asked her to make him one of her Averno ice cream drinks. Her father loved the combination, and to this day he still enjoys his forbidden milkshake tipple in private.
Gina describes the recipe as “foolproof” and recommends using a good quality chocolate ice cream. This luscious cocktail would work well as either a drink or as a stand-alone dessert.
Latte di Chocolate di Basil
1.5 oz Averna Amaro
4 oz. whole milk
1 scoop chocolate ice cream
3 fresh basil leaves
Combine all ingredients in a blender. Serve in a glass and garnish with a fresh basil leaf.
Averna Amaro may be purchased at Dixie Liquor in Georgetown. For more information on cocktail seminars visit MuseumOfTheAmericanCocktail.org.