How to Cocktail Like a Marchesa

A proper Italian cocktail is, well…subtly nuanced, glamorous, surprising, iconic and chilled, never too dolce.

I dream of Italian style cocktails,why?  They often contain culinary ingredients like sunny citrus juices and herbs and even slightly bitter orange marmalade (cue Paul Virant’s “Bitterscotch” Cocktail, currently on the menu at Perennial Virant, that features Campari, Lemon, and Orange Marmalade on the Rocks).

A Bitterscotch Cocktail from Perennial Virant

An Italian cocktail is something one savors with lowered sunglasses after the beach. (Can you tell I’m leaving for Amalfi soon?) If not, a succulent dinner of mussels and calamari plucked from the sea and ever so lightly tossed with handmade pasta, would also be appropriate. More of an aperitivo than a head-over-heels alcohol experience.

My favorite of all the Italian cocktails is the Negroni, (certainly one of the 10 Top Iconic Italian Cocktails of all time,) that introduces passion to the taste buds. Batched up in a pitcher or poured directly into a chilled martini glass — up, of course — a Negroni is for those who can tolerate and, in fact, love a bit of bitter. For those that consider the so called but delicious bitterness of Campari an ‘acquired taste,” I would suggest substituting with Aperol with somewhat of a more citrus-y sweetness and less alcohol. Mario Batali suggests a spritzer mixing ½ oz Aperol with equal parts soda, topped with prosecco and garnished with orange.

For more drama and operatic effect, one might consider an Aperol Martini which consists of Aperol added to Hendrick’s Gin, lime juice, pineapple juice, simple syrup, and tangerine juice. After just one of these, one might see Marcello Mastroianni come back to life or run into Fellini of 8 ½ as I once did. Was that a cocktail vision? Sipping an iconic Italian cocktail makes one the heroine of one’s own film, e vero, no?