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October/November 2007


WINE & SPIRITS

Bitters & Bubbly
by Baroness Sheri de Borchgrave

AS TEMPERATURES FALL, CHAMPAGNE AND BITTERS MAKE A REFRESHING COCKTAIL

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Cool autumn weather is no reason to retire cocktails for the season. Your mixed drinks, like your wardrobe, should be a clear reflection of the time of year. After Labor Day, trade in summer's sweet tropical libations—pina coladas, mojitos and caipirinhas—for something more nuanced, bitter and challenging.

Cocktails built on Campari and other bitter spirits are ideal for autumn's dialed-down state of mind. They are best sipped slowly, over real conversation. Though bitter spirits have been gaining real traction in Europe for the last few years, they have only recently taken off on our shores. Top New York bartenders have been leading the charge, mixing drinks all up and down the bitter taste spectrum.

Aperol, a Campari cousin new to the American market, has become ubiquitous in the best Manhattan bars. The low alcohol mixer is the basis for Italy's most beloved cocktail, the refreshing (albeit summery) Aperol Sprizz made with Prosecco or with white wine and seltzer. The drink is a great accessible gateway for the bitter cocktail novice.

Bitter Italian spirits, from light, easy Aperol on up are collectively known as amari. Infusions made with herbs, berries and bark, many were first developed in the 19th century when they were sold by pharmacists as medicinal cure-alls. Most villages in Italy produce their own signature amaro, offered in restaurants and homes as both digestives and pre-dinner appetite sparkers.

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