As I try to develop my ability to create my own recipes, I think being able to recreate dishes that I’ve eaten at restaurants is a great step to understanding flavor BALANCE and RATIOS, and to hone my sense of taste. Cocktails are the beginners version of this strategy, because the restaurant usually lists all the ingredients on the menu so I just have to figure out the measurements. I had this particular cocktail (the name of which means “hello nameless” in Italian) at Stoddard’s in Downtown Boston, where a very nice waitress recommended it because I don’t like very sweet drinks. I chose it because I already had all the ingredients so it would be very easy to recreate.
The listed ingredients of this cocktail were gin, amaro, sweet vermouth, and Peychaud’s bitters. It was served in a small sherry/cordial glass with an orange zest. When I drank it, I thought it was very dark in color, and I couldn’t really taste the gin but it did have a complex herby flavor. As detailed in my cocktail post and tips and tricks, where I discuss the standard RATIOS of cocktails, I guessed that the drink had a total volume ~3 oz, most of which was likely gin as it was the base liquor. I thought the color was more from the amaro than the vermouth, so I made sure to use plenty of that. The amount of bitters was the hardest part. Most cocktail recipes I’ve seen recommend either one or two dashes of bitters, but what on earth is a dash?
What is a dash? – I used to think that a dash was just one shake of the bottle, i.e. one drop. Like… dash was the noise it made. A while ago I used a recipe that said a dash was actually 6 drops, so I started using that measurement. For posting this recipe, I looked it up online and it turns out there’s no hard definition of a dash. The kitchn says one dash is a little less than 1/4 tsp, which is actually quite a lot. Since it varies so much, I’m going to start posting tsp measurements of my dashes for clarity and reproducibility.
Shaken or stirred? – James Bond, anyone? Pretty much every cocktail is chilled with ice before serving, but the method of chilling has a huge impact on the drink. Shaking drinks in a cocktail shaker requires 20-30 seconds of energetic shaking. This melts a lot of the ice, and the water produced is a key component of the resulting drink. It also makes the final drink cloudy, because of aeration, but it also might be because of the Ouzo effect. This happens because the alcohol, especially the liqueur, has oils (aka flavor) dissolved in it that are less soluble in water (see my Basic Vinaigrette post for a discussion of polarity). As the water from the ice is added the drink is diluted, extracting the oils from the alcohol and forming an emulsion. In contrast, stirring the drink with ice before straining is gentler and will result in less ice melt, leaving the flavor more concentrated and the drink more clear. The first time I made this drink I shook it, which was definitely the wrong call, so I had to make another. Oh well!
Ciao Senza Nome
Makes 1 drink
- 1.5 oz gin
- 3/4 oz Averna amaro
- 1/2 oz sweet vermouth
- 1 smallish dash (12 drops, 1/8 tsp) Peychaud’s bitters
- 1 long orange peel twisted around a wooden spoon handle
- chilled serving glass – I used a coupe because it’s what I have
- Combine everything except the orange peel in a mixing glass and stir with a cocktail spoon
- Add 3-4 ice cubes and stir just to chill
- strain into the serving glass and add the orange twist
This tastes very similar to what I got at the restaurant (and good), which is what I was going for! The flavor is herby and astringent. It’s on the sweet end of drinks that I like, but probably in the middle of the spectrum overall. Can’t really pick out the gin, so I would maybe use a bit more gin next time just to increase the herby flavor.