Another guest post by Sharon’s husband and our family’s cocktail aficionado, Anthony Damelio.
We often play this game, where I just make a cocktail and bring it over to Sharon without telling her any of the ingredients I’m working with. Most of the time, this is straightforward: too much of this, not enough of that, maybe it needs something else for balance. But, sometimes, Sharon’s tremendous tastebuds tell her exactly what I’m doing, and she recoils: “Is that amaretto!?”
Ever since we bought a bottle of amaretto explicitly for our biscotti recipe, I’ve been trying to make it play nice in cocktails—it’s usually a bully, rearing its sugary, nutty head above the fray and refusing to sing in harmony. Sharon understandably hates the flavor of amaretto; and while I wouldn’t exactly drink it on the rocks, I’m convinced it can play an interesting role in a cocktail.
On and off for several years now, I’ve crafted lots of unsuccessful combinations, all met with a similar exasperated eye-roll from my patient wife. Then, all at once, something changed.
I made a cocktail pilgrimage.
This time, I visited The Violet Hour when I was in Chicago this March. And while I would have preferred to solve this mystery on my own, I remembered the importance of learning from talented people who are able to transform disparate ingredients into transcendent beverages.
A creative, high-quality cocktail joint that has stood the test of time and weathered the explosion of similar—but inferior—bars, The Violet Hour serves up beverages that simultaneously astonish me and make me think, “Why didn’t I think of that!?” There was a drink on the menu that the bartender described as an agave-based Manhattan with tequila, mezcal, sweet vermouth, chipotle bitters, and…amaretto. Clearly, I couldn’t pass this one up, and I was glad I didn’t. It was a fascinating, well-balanced beverage, a brilliant choir of unusual voices singing together in harmony.
When I got home, I started playing with the recipe, not only to recreate the drink but also see if I could put my own spin on it. I swapped things out, but kept coming up with inferior beverages. Even Sharon agreed that I couldn’t back off too much on the amaretto—as much as it pained her to say that—because it played an integral role in the production.
Finally, I succumbed and found an incredible balance of mezcal and amaretto, chipotle and sweet vermouth. In the end, I was a bit embarrassed by the hubris of trying to modify what I’d experienced as near-perfection: a reminder, again, of the genius of cocktail bars that just get it right.
As tough as it can be to find the time and money, it’s so important to make those pilgrimages of flavor, to be exposed to things that we wouldn’t discover on our own. You never know when or where a revelation may hit you. And sometimes, if you’re lucky, the answer you’ve been searching for will be revealed at the feet of a master.
- 1 oz tequila blanco
- 1 oz mezcal
- 1 oz Carpano Antico sweet vermouth
- ⅛ oz amaretto
- 2 dashes orange bitters
- 1 dash Old Fashion bitters
- 1 dash chipotle powder
- Orange peel for garnish
- Combine all the ingredients into a mixing glass. Add a handful of ice and stir vigorously.
- Strain into coupe (if you like your drinks up) or into a rocks glass with a large cube. Garnish with a large orange peel.
Pam Anderson says
I so agree with this line of yours, Anthony, “As tough as it can be to find the time and money, it’s so important to make those pilgrimages of flavor, to be exposed to things that we wouldn’t discover on our own.”
You know the game our family plays. We make a gorgeous meal and then make everyone guess what they’d have to pay if they had ordered it at a nice restaurant. But that doesn’t take into account how a great restaurant (or bar) can broaden your tastes and ignite your own creativity. So next time you and Sharon are in town, let’s take a pilgrimage!
BTW, this cocktail is pretty brilliant. Love how you took a liquor that most associate with the margarita and then took it a dark, spicy, smoky direction.
Jeff Parker says
Sounds delicious! It may have to make an appearance with some grilled skirt steak this weekend! Cheers
Sharon Damelio says
Anthony’s right…I hate amaretto, but I love this drink! It’s smoky, nutty, spicy, and just a little sweet. It’s strong but balanced and goes down like a sophisticated classic.
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: I feel like the luckiest girl on the planet that my husband chose cocktail creation for a hobby rather than video games or something.
Carol at Wild Goose Mama says
I am just starting to get ‘into’ cocktails. So I probably can’t tell yet, what’s right or wrong. Just good or bad or indifferent
in regard to my taste buds. I am lovin’ the ingredients in this drink. So I had to pin it for a future try. It’s fun I am finding!
I don’t normally talk about ME, but please make note of the slight name change from Wild Goose Tea. New web design too—whoopee and am adding new features along the way.
That sounds spectacular! Between everyone here though, I’ll admit it, after a night of (maybe too much) tasting of cocktails nothing hits the spot more than Amaretto on ice. In fact, that’s when I know it’s time to hang it up for the evening — than and an insatiable craving for Del Taco.
This, however, this sounds like a great way to get the evening going. I’ve officially decided this is on my required drinking list post hate!
Derek Rocco says
I cut the carpano back to 3/4oz and used bittermens mole bitters instead of aromatic and it was amazing!