Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Traveler's Tipple: Eurorail Cocktail


With the cool, wet blanket of December settling in over the East Coast, it's finally time to settle in for the winter.

Now, you say, shouldn't we be ready for hot toddies, for steel-cut oatmeal and thick, woolen socks? Of course we should -- but when the random 60 degree day slips through the cracks, when you still cross the street to feel the sun on your face, when there are still wonderful, beguiling elixirs like Campari to drink...well, you look for any reason to ignore the oncoming chill of the next few months.

I was intoxicated (both literally and figuratively) by Campari the very first time I tried it; the idiosyncratic flavor, bitter and sweet, made my imagination run wild. It's hard to think of a better aperitif; apart from the flavor, which wonderfully stimulates the appetite (particularly for salty foods), the eye-catching red color will liven up any dinner party. Unfortunately for those of us who live in cool climes, after Labor Day, Campari drinking often goes the way of white clothing -- for many of us that have acquired the taste for it, its identification as a summer-only tipple is a sad and unnecessary restriction.

Indeed, in my opinion, Campari can have several fall and winter uses; a splash adds a smart twist to Thanksgiving cranberry sauce, and, when added to mulled wine, Christmas cheer abounds. But, perhaps, more than anything else, what Campari lacks is a signature cocktail for the cooler months -- a more respectable, buttoned down counterpoint to August's parade of Americanos and Negronis. To that end, then, we have today's recipe.

Named the Eurorail, it provides a quick jaunt across the continent: Earl Grey from Britain, Grand Marnier from France, and, of course, the inspiration for the journey itself, Campari, bringing us to the southern tip of Italia, where, I'd like to think -- even in the chill of December -- the sun still shines.

1 Ounce Campari
6 Ounces Strong, Cold-Brewed Earl Grey Tea
1/2 Ounce Grand Marnier
A splash of club soda (optional)

Place eight ounces of cold water in a container with one Earl Grey tea bag. For a more intensified flavor, use two bags. Refrigerate for at least five hours, or until well-infused.

Prepare a highball glass packed full of ice.

Starting with the Campari, layer the first three ingredients into the glass.

Top with a spritz of club soda, if you desire, and finish with a twist of lemon zest. Serve immediately.

The final product:

This is just the tipple to serve before a holiday feast. The tannins of the tea, the sweet-tart Campari, the smooth basso profundo power of the brandy -- this is just the thing to start your guests salivating before dinnertime.

We all know Campari looks good in flip-flops and madras shorts; but here, it proves it can wear black tie with the best of them. Give it a try.

Next week, we'll return with some classic French comfort food. Be sure to join us.

Oh, and one last thing -- this week, Burning Pasta received its ten-thousandth visitor, a major landmark for any blog. We couldn't have gone this long without all of your support and readership. Thanks for sticking with us, and here's looking forward to many more recipes in the future.

Music: Vashti Bunyan -- "Train Song"


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