Is your amaro offering a bit off the pace? A bit more craperitivo than aperitivo?
Well fear not. A team of bartenders from around the UK made a pilgrimage to Asti recently to visit the home of Cocchi, and returned with no shortage of tips and inspiration to help you up your pre-dinner game.
Lee Jones, Sandinista, Leeds and Manchester
I liked the simple serve of just adding candied citrus fruit to sparkling wine, bringing refreshment that’s also slightly on the sweet side. I think that’s really appealing for the English market.
When we visited Bar Barolino Cocchi in Turin, they included slices of banana in a Negroni-like drink – I wouldn’t have thought of that combination. You could do a bottled Negroni with dried banana chips in it. I also liked the idea of serving aperitivos like these alongside a salty element, like anchovies or cheese, which added an umami-like component.
Jono McDowell, Panda & Sons, Edinburgh
I was inspired to use different styles of vermouth to make classic drinks like the Martinez or Manhattan, and also to experiment more with vermouth-based drinks, in cocktails like the Adonis, or a super-dry Americano.
You can make really dry aperitifs and shims with something like Cocchi Americano and Alta Langa sparkling wine – keeping it all within the same DOC. The things you can make within just one winery or distillery is insane.
David Scott, The Great Gatsby, Sheffield
The whole aperitivo thing in Italy – there are clearly a number of cocktails there that they consider classics, that we’ve not even heard of. I really liked relaxing in the afternoon enjoying lower-abv drinks. It’s something our country misses.
Ultimately, this trip made me realise that we really need to see the return of the Hanky Panky.
Charlotte Bissett, Roland’s, Leeds
It’s important to not overcomplicate. We do meat and cheese at the bar, so matching those with spritzes in the beer garden really works. And there’s easy stuff to grow that you can use in the spritzes, like thyme and rosemary. We already garnish with grapes soaked in gin, so we could do something like strawberries or cherries in vermouth.
The Marilin we had was great – a drink with Cocchi Rosa, Brachetto d'Acqui wine, grapefruit juice and tonic. A summery drink like that is always going to sell.
Raffaele Marino, The Arts Club, London
I was inspired by all the spices we encountered. That gave me millions of ideas, not to mention inspiration for food pairing. I’m always about flavour first, but some of the meals we had, and pairings we encountered, also remind you that the visual element is important too.
The links between vermouth and the history of the region, of the House of Savoy and Piemonte, gave me some good ideas for presentations for cocktails too, maybe using designs from that kingdom.