What is it with starting blogs? How is it so hard to just get started? I imagine what this is what writers call “writer’s block,” since I know I have plenty of things to share with you, dear reader, and yet I just can’t get my words out there! It’s so much easier / faster/ instant gratification to snap a photo of something I want to share and throw it up on Instagram, than it is to sit down and give you some background. But I LIKE background! I LIKE when I hear more from a blogger about their process, what worked (and sometimes more importantly, what didn’t), how something can be modified, what to do with what he or she is making. So why not me? I guess it’s just lack of timing (what a poor, poor excuse). And so, perhaps I just need for force this for a while to get into a habit. Yes, I believe that’s the answer.
One of my favorite types of recipes to discover and learn is more of what I consider a “ratio recipe”, that is, a recipe the gives you an equation with which different types of each ingredient can be substituted in for one another. Take for example, The Sour. The Sour is a whole family of drinks that follow a simple premise: Base Liquor + Citrus + Sweetener. Most sours follow a 2-1-1 ratio, or 2 parts liquor, one part citrus, one part sweetener. For instance, two ounces of tequila plus one ounce of lime juice plus one ounce of Contreau equals a really tasty margarita!
With such a recipe, one can substitute and modify until their heart’s content! These are the types of recipes I really enjoy, and think are helpful to have in your back pocket.
So when I discovered a ratio recipe in Esquire involving a new favorite bottle in my liquor cabinet, I was excited. Aperol was first produced in 1919 in Italy by the brothers Luigi and Silvio Barbieri (don’t you just love Italian names?!) My understanding is that Aperol was created as a digestif with a lower alcohol content than others on the market at the time. Still to this day, Aperol has 11% ABV compared with its cousin Campari at 24% (FYI, although Campari and Aperol are now part of the same company, they weren’t originally. Campari was created by Gaspare Campari in 1860.) All of this blathering means that Aperol maintains the bitterness often associated with digestifs, but is not as strong, making it a good gateway for those looking to get into more bitter types of cocktails and drinks.
Back to Esquire. A few years back, Esquire published an article by David Wondrich touting a “foolproof, well balanced template for making drinks”, and the constant in the recipe was – you guessed it – Aperol! So here’s how it goes:
1.5 oz. liquor
whiskey, tequila, vodka, gin – pick your poison!
.5 oz. Aperol
1/2 oz. liqueur
Contreau, Chartreuse, Benedictine … Go wild! Or, not too wild, as Wondrich points out.
.5 oz. citrus juice
lemon, lime, or grapefruit
What I love about this recipe is that it gives you a few parameters with which to go crazy in, and it doesn’t force you to go out and buy a completely new line-up of bottles for your cabinet… unless of course you don’t have Aperol. But you should, so that’s okay!! The other added delight to this type of recipe is that once you’ve gotten comfortable with it, you can start to understand what each ingredient does to the drink as a whole, and THAT, my friend, is when you can really start scribbling outside the lines and changing the ratios as well as the ingredients!
For instance, oftentimes liqueur gives the drink the sweet factor while also upping the alcohol level a tad. So if one were to forego the liqueur, substitute a sweetener, and also increase the base liquor a tad, we’re sort of doing the same thing. And who’s to say we need to stick with ONE citrus? What if we split that amount between two types of citrus?
OH NO SHE DIDN’T!!
OH YES I DID!
OK, if I haven’t completely bored you with alcoholic mathematics, then perhaps I’ll draw you back with a recipe? Dubbed The Weekender Cocktail by Forrest Butler of Royal Rose Syrups, this cocktail includes my favorite Aperol with a few other delicious ingredients (only slightly modified from Wondrich’s template), and it’s the perfect summer cocktail for sitting poolside with a floppy-brimmed hat and a good book! Those days aren’t so far away, … right?!?! Sigh…
1 oz. vodka
3/4 oz. Aperol
1/2 oz. saffron simple syrup (from Rose’s, or DIY)
1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
1/2 oz. fresh grapefruit juice
Add all ingredients to a shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously (not shaking vigorously is the equivalent of shaking hands limply. So blasé!) Strain your drink into a chilled coup glass. Enjoy! Poolside!
Until next time, friends!