Zucca Sprezzatura

Zucca Sprezzatura #Cocktail // stirandstrain.comIt might seem a little quiet around here. I’m always making apologies when the posts start to appear less frequently; it’s all that stored up Catholic guilt from my youth. But mainly 1. I’m recovering from our first real stint doing The Coconut Club and 2. it’s hot and I can barely muster the strength to stir a cocktail. So that’s why I’m all about building drinks in the glass right now. Less equipment means less time standing around washing stuff later.Zucca Sprezzatura #Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

In addition to me just generally being lazy, my family is coming to visit this week and already I’ve been hearing over the phone how they can’t wait to try my “fancy drinks”. Now, I now my mom’s inability to metabolize alcohol: one drink and she’s asleep. If I made her one of my regular “fancy drinks”, she might just sleep for a day. Which… well, as tempting as that sounds, she did fly across the country to see us, not sleep the day away. So that’s where some more low alcohol drinks come in. One whole highball and only a 1/2 ounce of liquor over 40 proof. Instead of making scotch here the star, I’ve turned to Zucca, an Italian amaro that only clocks in at around 16%.Zucca Sprezzatura #Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Zucca leans more towards the sweeter end of the bitter amaro spectrum, without quite evoking the flavor of its namesake rhubarb (although I’ve been schooled on the fact that it’s Chinese rhubarb used in the making of this, which gives the amaro a bitter flavor). What makes this amaro particularly special is the slightly smoky flavor profile that complements its syrupy bittersweetness. For me, it’s a perfect companion to scotch, so I’ve put them together in this cocktail*.

With these two great ingredients, I’m still considering this fancy. Looking for something a little lighter for the summer? Try this!

1 ounce Zucca
3/4 ounce Scotch, such as Great King St. Artist’s Blend
3 ounces Bitter Lemon soda, I prefer Fever-tree’s
2 dashes grapefruit bitters
lemon peel garnish

In a highball glass filled with ice, add Zucca, scotch and grapefruit bitters. Top with soda and garnish with lemon peel.

Slightly sweet, with a lingering bitterness on the tongue. The bitter lemon soda lightens everything up while adding a different layer of bitterness. The bitters add a floral note both on the nose and the palate. The cocktail is seriously refreshing and an easy to drink summer libation.

 

*I originally posted this recipe on Serious Eats!

Mixology Monday: Fruit & Dagger Cocktail

fruit and dagger cocktail // stirandstrain.com
mxmologo

Every month I feel like the deadline for Mixology Monday creeps up on me faster and faster. And just like that, it’s time once again for a post. This month, Mark at Cardiff Cocktails has given us the theme of “Witches’ Garden”. For the full announcement post, please click here.

Here’s the back story for my submission this month…

I’ve had this bottle of Sake taking up room in my fridge for months. Possibly more than five. Looking for an excuse for using it up, I thought I would try something a little lighter in the ABV, as this bottle clocks in at around 15-16%. Shirakabe Gura Tokubetsu Junmai is a dry-ish sake that has a light melon/pear taste, but not much body. I figured it could use some bulking up via a cocktail.

My herb of choice for this drink was Rosemary. I have so much growing around my house that I filled up two green bins when just ‘trimming’ it last month. If you ask me for some, I will gladly hand over a shopping bag filled to the brim to you, which you will silently curse me for, wondering how in the hell you will use all of it. So, any time I can stick it in a drink, I will. Rosemary gets closeted into winter-time drinks much too much. It’s woodsy profile though pairs really well with citrus, and, as I have discovered this week, passion fruit.fruitdagger-3

So I married those two with a hint of grapefruit and came up with this low-alcohol cocktail. The final ingredient is tonic. The drink had the right flavors when I first tried it, but fell flat in my mouth. The tonic perked the whole thing up, giving it a much needed lightness and fizz.fruitdagger-2

3 oz Shirakabe Gura Tokubetsu Junmai Sake
1/2 oz Passion Fruit syrup (recipe here)
1 sprig of rosemary, about 5″ long
3 dashes Fee Brothers Grapefruit Bitters
2 oz Fever-Tree Premium Indian Tonic Water

sprig of rosemary and grapefruit slice for garnish

In a mixing glass, place the sprig of rosemary in the bottom, add syrup and muddle gently, just enough to release the oils. Do not crush or tear the herb (5-7 presses with a muddler should do). Add ice 2/3 of the way up the glass, then pour in sake and bitters. Stir to combine. Fill a highball glass with ice and strain liquids over the ice. Top with Tonic water. Gently stir to combine. Garnish with rosemary sprig and grapefruit slice. A straw is also a welcome addition.

As I stated earlier, the rosemary and passion fruit are a great combo, earthy and tart. The grapefruit bitters offer a citrus nose and a sweet and bitter layer to the drink. The sake itself is pretty mild tasting, and I found it a nice canvas to play off of here. Overall clean and refreshing.