A guest post from Sharon’s husband and our designated family mixologist, Anthony Damelio.
One of my worst grades in middle school came not from English, science, or math, but from art—the class everyone’s supposed to “do well” in (or so I thought).
That fateful mark came from our work with clay, particularly the coil technique where you stack long, thin rolls of clay on top of each other. At the outset, I intended to make a beautiful vase for my parents, but somewhere in the process of assembling those clay coils…my creation collapsed. I was crushed, but I managed to regroup and start working on a beehive, which seemed like a much more friendly (and forgiving) shape for my inexperienced hands. When the hive was finished, I glazed it in a rich brown and decorated it with little bees that I painstakingly painted black and yellow. I stood back and proudly admired my creation. I’d really messed up the vase, but I saved it and made a sweet beehive!
Upon emerging from the kiln, however, the finished product was somewhat less pride-producing. My dark brown, coiled pile with bugs swarming around it looked like one unmistakable thing: a big pile of sh*t with flies all over it.
This experience was typical of my days in school art class, all of which led me to conclude that I simply wasn’t creative. I couldn’t make my hands draw the way I wanted, I wasn’t able to form raw materials into stunning works. I wasn’t even good at designing things on a computer. Artistic ideas didn’t come easily, and I was perpetually afraid of screwing something up. (Can you blame me?)
It took years, but I’ve finally been able to shed the moniker of someone who’s “just not creative.” In the world of cocktails, I’ve found one of my artistic outlets.
Cocktails provide a palette, of sorts, for me to experiment with—to play with flavors, to express ideas and feelings, to help people experience life a little differently. Maybe that sounds dramatic, but I think cocktails can be transformative, not just as a social lubricant, but as a vehicle that can transport you somewhere else entirely. Much like great food, a well-made drink can whisk you away to the vineyards of Spain, your mother’s kitchen, the souks of Morocco, the seafood stands at the beach.
Beyond being fun, making truly great cocktails can be delicate and difficult. Adding or subtracting just a touch of one ingredient can dramatically alter the flavor, and I relish the challenge of tasting and adjusting a drink in search of that elusive sweet spot where disparate ingredients sing in harmony—balancing, complementing, and showcasing one another.
When I started thinking about winter cocktails, I pondered the many sides of winter: the long darkness, wind that whips at your face, brilliant sunshine across a field of snow, warm spices, seasonal food, and the bright citrus that breaks up winter’s doldrums. For me, this cocktail is meant to capture that piercing light coming off ice and snow, as you pass by a fragrant grove of evergreens. I hope it takes you there—or creates a bright, new wintry memory.
Sunlight on Snow
We use rosemary fresh off a bush on our balcony. If you’re buying it from the store, you may want to add a little more to get that fresh, piney flavor.
Makes 1 drink.
1/2 oz. simple syrup
10 rosemary needles
1 1/2 oz. gin
1/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
1/4 oz dry vermouth
1/4 oz. Grand Marnier (or Cointreau)
1/4 oz St. Germain
Orange peel, for garnish
Muddle the simple syrup and rosemary in a cocktail shaker. Add the gin, lemon juice, vermouth, Grand Marnier, and St. Germain. Add a small handful of ice cubes and shake vigorously. Strain into a martini or coupe glass and garnish with the orange peel.