Well, hello there!
I spent most of July on the road and am a bit behind on posting, but there’s one summer trend that that must be talked about right this minute: the aperitivo hour.
This was a lovely little package I received from Luxardo toward the beginning of July, just as Chicago’s summer was heating up, to promote its newest product, Aperitivo liqueur. New to the States this summer (it was released in Italy a year ago), its nearly fluorescent red color is a bit off-putting, but trust me when I say that once it’s in a glass with soda and ice, it’s capable of making a lovely, subtly sweet bitter cooler — kind of like Campari Lite.
The idea of an aperitivo hour isn’t new, of course. Many of us (especially spirits marketers) have a romanticized ideal of old Italian men sitting around on some gorgeous piazza sipping expertly made negronis every afternoon at 4 o’clock sharp, but I’m pretty sure those guys have been drinking whatever they want whenever they want for the past few centuries.
Still: It’s summer, it’s hot, so why not?
Another tried-and-true Italian fortified-wine powerhouse, Martini & Rossi, capitalized on the idea at this year’s Tales of the Cocktail.
I attended a few of Martini & Rossi’s 150th anniversary events including this aperitivo hour pop-up bar, at which the gentleman on the left, a bartender with London’s Nightjar, was shaking up aperitif cocktails. Many drinkers probably aren’t aware that addition to the standard russo (sweet) and bianco (dry), M&R has an entire range of vermouths, and this fall is adding another: Gran Lusso. It’s the black bottle with the brown label lined in excess behind Mr. Nightjar.
I tried Gran Lusso in an El Presidente, a classic rum-based aperitif cocktail with vermouth & maraschino, and it was quite refreshing and delicious. Gran Lusso was created to celebrate Martini & Rossi’s 150th anniversary, and because it’s so good, I imagine it’ll be popular once it’s out this September.
If only it was available a few years ago when I did my vermouth roundup for the Chicago Tribune. Don’t tell my editor, but on the day of that tasting, I was super-hungover & sipping a few dozen mostly-mediocre vermouths neat almost made me lose my lunch. Gran Lusso — and the new improved aperitivo hour — shall be my redemption.