Vintage Amaro

Wipe Off the Dust and Drink the Old Amaro

drink, Vintage

Infatuated with the bittersweet, syrupy allure of the Aperol spritz, Americans have rediscovered a taste for aperitivo and digestivo bitters. Enter amaro. While Campari is the ruby red king of bitter aperitivi, other darker, herbaceous digestivi have resurrected in it’s wake, ready to tackle cocktail menus and bar carts across the country.

But the history of amaro goes back. Waaaay back. And in cleaning my great grandma’s house my grandma found a cardboard box of amaro from yesteryear. You see, my great grandma didn’t drink. Her amaro stash grew from generous house guests who graciously brought a bottle upon each visit. Stubborn enough to not indulge in a drop but kind enough to hold on to each bottle, my great grandma unknowingly bestowed a treasure trove of flavors unto me. Thanks Grandma Maria.

Now normally I would not condone eating old food. Don’t eat the candy you found in your closet from a Halloween of yore. But properly stored vintage alcohol? Dive in. A barrel aged bourbon develops its unique flavor because of age. A vintage red wine has subtleties that a younger wine has not yet developed. Not to say all old alcohol remains drinkable, proceed with sensible caution.

What’s in amaro?

I realize I’ve been drinking this stuff for a while and have no idea what’s in it. Oops. Each one is different, ranging from sweet like caramel to bitter like licorice, with unique secret recipes like mystical potions. Some even taste medicinal.

I’m lucky to have two vintage amari in my house: Amaro dell’Etna and Cynar. Amaro dell’Etna‘s ingredient list contains orange peel, licorice and vanilla. The recipe dates back to 1901, but is still available new in sores today. Cynar, a name derived from the latin botanical name for artichoke, is surprise surprise made of artichoke along with 13 other herbs and plants. Younger than Amaro dell’Etna, Cynar debuted in Italy in 1952.

The bitterness makes them adequate swaps for bitters in classic cocktails. Each unique blend also can suffice as the base for a contact and/or enjoyed on it’s own or with seltzer. The versatility alone makes a no-brainer case for keeping amaro in your home bar. Don’t worry, there’s one for everyone.

Is old amaro safe to drink?

Short answer, yes. Finding a bottle of Campari from 1950 is an incredible feat for negroni aficionados. But proper storage can make or break a vintage. Like Campari and Cynar, liqueurs don’t need to be refrigerated due to the sugar content. Approach vintage vermouth, lillet and any other fortified wines with caution. Opened or unopened, when exposed to light and heat, fortified wines can lose umf.

Where to store vintage amaro?

To reiterate, amaro’s sugar content keeps it shelf stable. So room temperature storage should not be a problem. However, take caution when drinking an old amaro that’s already been open. While oxidation won’t harm you, it will impact the thickness as the sugars turn into glycerin. It’s just a recipe for meh amaro experience. Best to keep vintage amaro unopened and out of direct sunlight until ready to drink.

What happens to the flavor?

The resulting flavor of aged amari varies greatly between styles. Additionally, due to changes in machinery and ownership, while ingredients might be the same every time, amari can vary between decades as well. Flavor can become sweeter and more syrupy or mellow as the bitter herbs meld together further. It’s an adventurous way to taste beyond switching between styles of amaro. Trying today’s version of Cynar, for example, alongside my beloved found bottle can showcase how the flavors evolved over time.

Let’s talk labels

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve had an infatuation with vintage alcohol labels for a very long time: the art nouveau styles of absinthe ads to the futurism era Campari posters shaped my appreciation for the liqueurs. The text and colors of these labels tell so much about when they were conceived. The Amaro dell’Etna, with an older formula, uses embellished text and a painted landscape paying homage to a classic style, while the Cynar label uses block text and a modern design ringing in the 1950’s idea of the future. While both labels now reflect the past, each exists in its own era forever, reflecting the art and sentiment of each era.

Cocktail connoisseurs and vintage collectors can appreciate the impact these liqueurs have had on the culinary and advertising worlds. If you aren’t lucky enough to inherit a dusty cardboard box of amaro, you can taste older bottles at specialty wine shops and cocktail bars. If you’re curious to try an amaro at all, the next time you’re interested in an Aperol spritz at the bar, ask for one with a different bitter liqueur instead.

We can’t storm Area 51 anymore so I stormed Area 2

beer, drink, Travel

I hate it when someone tells me something is overrated after I express interest in going. Let me find that out for myself. Or not. I felt that way about Two Roads Brewery in Stratford, CT.

Two Roads is Connecticut’s largest brewery occupying 10 acres of land for brewing, tasting, entertaining and growing. Pretty impressive. The building’s post-industrial aesthetic and the collection of branded Air Streams gave the OG Two Roads an injection of 2010s zeitgeist. The tattoo event and french fry food truck added to that millennial vibe. So yeah, I guess if you’re over that crowd, then this place isn’t for you.

However, who cares what the place looks like when the beer is this good. Now, Two Roads is fun and the standards are abundant whether you like IPAs, sours or even hard seltzer, but if you want a wild time head over to Area 2, Two Roads’ experimental facility accessible via walkway from the brewery. While Two Roads might be perfect for tossing a frisbee, crushing a beer and dog watching, Area 2 is ideal for finding something rare and new.

In my 5-beer tasting I tried a farmhouse ale, a saison and a “hard kombucha” among the long list of uniquely funky and off-beat varieties. Of course, this is a lot of beer to drink without having any food so be sure to grab some cheese and crackers while you’re sippin’ and maybe pack a snack so you aren’t like us, waiting for french fries to sober you up.

Now for the run-down of all the beers:

  • Norwegian Farmhouse Ale (5% ABV) – this beer satisfied a craving I had for months. After leaving the Hudson Valley, a land abundant with beers and wines that taste like a full on barnyard, I needed a refreshing beer that still delivered that sour, earthy stink. This was it.
  • Table Terroir (3.7% ABV) – table wine feels like a lost tradition. In Europe, it’s easy to walk into a restaurant or tavern and grab a cask of inexpensive table wine. It goes with everything in a complimentary way, not an overpowering way. This low ABV, easy drinking beer is a three-way crossroad between an IPA, a wheat beer and a saison.
  • Brett Saison (6.6% ABV) – dude, I know I love sours and fruity beers, but the french farmhouse saison is really rocking my world. As I constantly yearn for funky flavors, I find myself ordering saisons more frequently and finding more to love with each sip. You’ll want to tuck into a wheel of brie after taking one sip.
  • Hard Kombucha (4.5% ABV) – did someone say pink beer? This deep magenta rooibos and sour cherry concoction tasted just like unsweetened iced tea. My mom introduced me to rooibos years ago and it always had a magical quality to it: earthy and beet-like. This felt remarkably healthy to drink, justifying its name.
  • Crooked Roads (5.7% ABV) – AKA the fried chicken beer. Now, I’m not sure if its because this was our last beer of the day (after a full pour AND 4 tastes) but we took a loopy turn upon tasting this. “It tastes like fried chicken.” What? Nick said this and I was confused at first until it hit me. It tasted like fried chicken. A thigh. Right off the bone. I deduced that this was from the oak aging, giving the sour ale a woody, meaty flavor.

These were only five of the 16 possibilities and you bet I’m going back for more. Area 2 can abduct me into their spacecraft of dope beer any weekend of the year.

Tap NY Beer Fest

5 Beers You Don’t Want To Miss

beer, drink

A muddy tent, 12 beers and three hot dogs. That’s it, that’s the scene. I attended Tap NY at Hunter Mountain on Sunday, April 28 and that basically sums up my day to anyone interested in the short version. The rain couldn’t stop us from touring through tents filled with tons of attendees and brewers. Also hot dogs. There were so many hot dogs.

Tables were stocked with some of the best beers New York has to offer from Long Island and NYC to Western New York State. After rounding up all 12 beers (requiring some detective work) I’m here to give you my top 5 in no particular order. These are the beers you absolutely have to try.

Brown’s Brewing Company – Cherry Razz

Picture a Jolly Rancher. Now make it beer. That’s basically it. Cherry Razz is the adult version of Kool Aid and I’m not mad about it. This pink beer was refreshing and clean but also very sweet like candy. Drink this outside, maybe with a dog because this is just happiness in a glass.

Clemson Bros. – M-Town

Paying homage to their brewery hometown in Middletown, NY with the name, M-Town tastes like a damn mimosa. It’s the blood orange that does it. It’s light and fruity with enough bubbles to make you giggle at brunch. Drink this with a cheesy omelet and don’t forget to wear a wide brimmed hat and a sundress.

Equilibrium – Peregrinas

Another Middletown brewery! Equilibrium has a scientific edge to it’s beers and this peachy saison perfectly balances sweet and sour notes. It looks like Sunny D but is worlds better and should be enjoyed out of a stemmed glass with some cheese (because cheese would be great).

Interboro – Fluff & Stuff

The only Brooklyn brew I tried at Tap NY. Fluff & Stuff, another pink beer, was a dry style kinda like a rosé. It was fruity but not super sweet and really more akin to a wine. It even looked like rosé in color with its pale pink hue. I definitely would drink this at a barbecue but like a fancy barbecue with steaks or something.

West Kill Brewing – Please Acknowledge Me

Probably one of the best names for a beer – this was light and floral. Maybe too pretty to drink because it looked like pure sunshine in a glass. Another saison but unlike the Peregrinas this was a little earthier and tasted like kombucha. If you could do yoga and drink beer at the same time this would be the beer to drink.

While these are my top 5, all 12 beers were satisfying in their own right. Here’s the rest of the beers I tried during my day at Tap NY:

Barrier Brewing – Shadows and Dust

Catskill Brewery – Barrel Aged Barleywine

Gilded Otter – Blueberry Gunks

Industrial Arts – Spring Landscape

King’s Court – Mind Bender

Mill House Brewing Company – Cucumber Blessings

Roscoe Beer Company – Brown Ale

PINK BEER IS HAVING A MOMENT AND SO AM I

beer, drink

 

The words “pink drink” evoke infamous memories of college parties: standing before a cooler with a spout dripping pink liquid. The bastardized amalgamation of pink lemonade, sprite and vodka fill the red plastic cup again and again. When was the cooler last cleaned? Who did I hand $5 to for this cup? I don’t know, but I’m having fun until the morning.

While “pink drink” has been tucked away to a secluded corner of my brain, pink beer is top of mind lately. I’ve been feeling my 2019 Barbie girl fantasy lately ordering and pouring beers that are all coincidentally pink. It’s no surprise that pink beer is having a moment when everything seems to be coming up rosés.

Most pink beers tend to fall into the sour or farmhouse ale categories as those funky, farmy styles are experiencing an undeniable renaissance. Hudson Valley Brewery added a strawberry sour to the family of Silhouette beers and, damn, it tastes like strawberry ice cream. The hazy pink brew resembles a strawberry smoothie. Sloop Brewing Company is re-releasing the first ever Sloop Jam series beer, Razzle Dazzle, by popular demand. The raspberry and cherry sour beer appears jammy and bright. The ever inventive Plan Bee Farm Brewery special released breakfast, a beer brewed with blueberry and coffee and aged in bourbon barrels (ya know, like breakfast). All I can say besides delicious is MAGENTA because in a glass this was a gorgeous jewel tone.

Of course these beers would be delicious straight from the can (sorry, mom) but watching bubbles rise through the deep pink beer really completes the experience. The truth? I’m sure social media has made pink beer explode this season. Berry lambics and cherry lagers have always existed but the craze is picking up now as every layman and blogger has romanticized the pink drink via Instagram alone. More truth? I’m not even mad.

Every coffee shop in Beacon

drink, Travel

I love two things: coffee and espresso. Luckily I work on Main Street in Beacon, New York, a hub of coffee shops and cafes just waiting for me to tear through them begging for a mid-day cup o’ joe. I’m trying to cut back, I swear. And yet, relapse never tasted so good.

My portal to Beacon’s coffee wonderland was Bank Square, the iconic coffee shop at the western entrance to Beacon’s Main Street. The interior is shabby chic complete with exposed brick and mismatched vintage furniture. I adore the yellow wall and this one chair with the same yellow colored velveteen upholstery on the cushion. Quite honestly, it never looks the same twice. There’s also an outdoor patio complete with string lights, perfect for a sunset date. I like the young, laid back vibe of the entire place. It can get crowded, however. The prime real estate is both good and bad: good for business, bad for the coffee shop intimacy that I love. The coffee is delicious, obviously. I don’t think any place on Main Street serves coffee that is anything shy of perfection. Now I rarely visit Bank Square due to my proximity to other coffee shops on Main Street. Nothing personal.

Geographically next despite the approximately ten minute walk is Big Mouth Coffee Roasters. All I have to say is damn girl. Big Mouth stole my heart the moment I stepped inside. The space is that perfect marriage of intimate and social with secluded spaces in the back to have a conversation, a more work-friendly space by the counter and window seating perfect for watching the eclectic neighborhood characters that walk by every day. Their logo is ingenious: a hippo peeking it’s head out of water. They feature local artists and host gallery openings and closings, supporting the art community present in Beacon. And the coffee is, mwah, perfection. I drink my coffee black (which shocks people for some reason) and Big Mouth’s dark roast has those deep cherry notes that just makes me want to bathe in it. Just kidding that’d be gross.

Next is my beloved and convenient Beacon Pantry. Coffee is literally seconds away. I can afford to walk back to my office without wasting a plastic lid! Coffee is quick, inexpensive and gets the job done. While they don’t roast their own coffee like Big Mouth does, they use the dearly beloved Stumptown roasts. Unlike Big Mouth, the Beacon Pantry is not just a coffee shop. They’re a full service restaurant AND specialty market, which is the REAL reason why I love them so much. The curated meat and cheese selection makes me drool almost as much as the wafting scent of bread that enchants my senses daily. Many a daydream have been spent simply thinking of the selection of butter. I’m thinking about it right now.

Next is Ella’s Bellas, a gluten free bakery and cafe just one block east on Main Street. Personally, I like their iced coffee. I’m not sure why. I just do. I must also praise them for their gluten free baked goods, but it is important to remember that glutenless baked goods will naturally taste different than glutened baked goods. Both of those words are definitely made up. After eating my fair share of sub-par gluten free goods in solidarity with my gluten-intolerant friends I can confidently praise Ella’s Bellas for doing something right in the gluten-free baking world.

Last but not least Trax, the easternmost coffee shop on Main Street, is the quiet, brooding guy if Bank Square is the loud, opinionated friend. It’s only fitting that they’re at opposite ends of the spectrum given their opposite positioning on Main Street, however I think they use the same coffee beans. Each location’s cup sleeves feature both logos. Regardless, Trax has the intimacy that I crave at Bank Square, but Bank Square has the decor I love. Trax brands itself as an espresso bar so naturally I tried a cortado. I loved the size of the drink and the barista’s artistry in pouring the milk in a perfect leaf atop the espresso. A perfect pick-me-up and effective remedy for a rainy day. I could spend hours staring out of the wide storefront window at the old brick buildings across the way. It’s definitely a good place to feel inspired.

Life is too short to drink bad coffee so don’t. Whether you’re close to Beacon or not, find a local coffee shop and support that business before resorting to a larger chain brand. Chances are your coffee will be better quality and your experience will be unique every time.

 

 

Day 13 and some

drink, lifestyle

This weekend was incredible. The end to my 13 day nightmarish week felt like a celebration. While my physical body was exhausted on Friday night, mentally I was ready for fun. Here’s some real-time footage of my last day and a recap of my weekend.

I visited 2 cideries in the New Paltz area: Kettleborough and Brooklyn Cider House. Kettleborough exceeded my expectations. I found them by searching “cider houses” on Google and after not recognizing the name I admit, I did not have the highest hopes. How wrong I was. The cider was delicious, to start. Just the qualities I like: tannic, dry and effervescent. Unlike commercialized ciders, that are not bad in my eyes by the way, these ciders display the true transformation in the fermentation process. The flavors are more akin to a white wine than they are to a common cider. And yet the most incredible part of Kettleborough was the scenic view from around the cider house. Suddenly you were perched on top of a hill looking out on the Shawangunk ridge in it’s vibrant autumnal glory. If we weren’t freezing, we could’ve sat there forever. But like I said we were cold, and apple cider donuts beckoned.

The Brooklyn Cider House, while definitely a more well known name, was equally as enjoyable. The cidery’s New Paltz location occupies an orchard, Twin Star Orchard, in addition to a cider house. We chose a bottle of the raw cider which had that farm-y funky flavor that I’ve been really enjoying in farm beers lately. We enjoyed a pizza, a bottle of cider and a walk through the orchard. The full sun made this location a little more bearable in the elements. I stole an apple. No telling.

Really Saturday was wildly special because of my company: I love my boyfriend possibly more than I love myself. He is my best friend, and if you believe in soul-mates he is mine. But Saturday was also special because I took my new-found tasting knowledge out for a spin. I looked past my preferences and prejudices and tried a little of everything, and it yielded new knowledge and a greater variety to choose from in the future. It’s something I’m definitely looking forward to exploring more. I know I can improve on my tasting abilities and descriptions. Maybe a new journal? Who knows.

Day 11 10/10/18

drink, lifestyle

Day 11 has been incredible. After putting in my 2 weeks notice I’ve felt extremely motivated at my main job. I visited an event location and interviewed the owner of a vineyard for an article.

As I approached the vineyard I had a stupid giant smile on my face. Fall in the Hudson Valley is picturesque, but this could make an oil painting look like an elementary school art project. The collage of trees distracted me until the expanse of grape vines appeared, extending back towards a group of barns. Opposite the vineyard is the Shawangunk Ridge, the mountains that occupy the area. My god, it was gorgeous,

I tasted 6 wines today. Yes, I got paid to taste wine. I first tried a Cab Franc, a variety that took extremely well to the area. I don’t think I’ve tried it before and it was a dry and drinkable red. Delightful. When I told the owner of the vineyard that I tried it, she asked if I usually like dry reds. When I said yes, she said that she would give me a list of wines to try that include some dry reds but mostly other varieties. She said the tasting room is exactly that, for tasting. I should feel comfortable enough to get out of my comfort zone and get out of the habit of only buying one type of wine. While I live outside the comfort zone, I understand that most people don’t want to bother spending money on something they won’t like. She made me feel like I was in good hands. Like if I didn’t like a wine I wouldn’t feel guilty because I’m there to discover if I like a wine or not.

When it came down to it and to my surprise, my tastebuds lingered on a light, citrusy white wine. I couldn’t take my mind off of it even as I interviewed the owner. I went back inside and bought a bottle. It’s burning a hole in my fridge as I test my self control and save it for when my boyfriend visits this weekend. The white is their best seller, and has evolved over the years the vineyard has been open.

Today revived me both energetically and inspirationally. I took advantage of my slow morning and enjoyed every second I was out in the field. Usually I bemoan transcribing interviews but for some reason I can’t wait to listen to this half hour masterpiece and write multiple pieces about this phenomenal place. I might even come back this weekend.

I learned so much today. My alarm just went off and I can’t believe it’s already 10PM. I’ve got 2 more days until my day off. Let’s not get too too tired before it’s all over. I’ve got big things coming.

Spritz Season

drink

I miss Italy. I lived there for four months during a semester abroad and I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said I never felt more myself. I embraced the culture and the culture embraced me. Something new and exciting that I enjoyed frequently was the spritz, specifically the Aperol spritz. Aperol is a bitter liqueur made from non-specific herbs. The liquid is bright red, like some magic love potion you’d see near a witch’s cauldron. Its a little bit bitter, a little bit sweet, and a whole lot delicious. Aperol is most commonly served in a spritz: a drink consisting of prosecco, Aperol, club soda, and an orange wedge. The drink is perfect for almost every occasion. Eating a panini on a hot day? Spritz. Getting ready for dinner? Spritz. This is a cocktail that quenches thirst and satisfies your senses. Even the appearance of the drink is enchanting due to the signature red hue of the liqueur. The bitterness of the Aperol contrasts with the sweet effervescence of the prosecco. I simply adore everything about it.

To me the drink reminds me of warmth and happiness. There are so many versions of spritzes consisting of those three main components: bitter liqueur, wine, and seltzer or club soda. I bought an entire book devoted to the art of the spritz. I’ve had versions with Campari instead of Aperol, making the drink more bitter, and different herbal liquers, like the Hugo spritz. Today I made mine using rosé, Aperol, and a splash of seltzer. The sweetness from the rosé against the bitterness of the Aperol created a refreshing drink that didn’t taste alcoholic in the slightest, meaning it was a dangerous concoction and I should only have one.

The Aperol spritz reminds me of my second home: Italy. It reminds me of the great times and adventures I had. It reminds me of the little things, like tasting new foods, that made me excited to wake up every morning.

Try your hand at a spritz, traditional or of your own creation, and celebrate the little adventures you can only hope to have each day.

For the spritz I made for this post, check out this link.