When I gave up meat for Lent, my less than pious plan was to become a master of cooking creatures of the deep. What it has meant in practice is nothing but shrimp-flavored ramen (do not attempt) and penne with tuna, olive oil, and crushed red pepper (a standby I learned from N— while living in squalor last summer). In short, the last couple weeks have been sort of like . . . Lent. Last night my sous-chef, perhaps sensing the approach of my gastronomic panic, cooked me spinach and cheese gnocchi with mussels. I supplied a Caesar salad and a cocktail. The latter was chosen with an eye to draining my Punt e Mes before moving day—the rest of the cabinet is almost gone, just gin, a few varieties of bitters, and a finger or two of cognac.
My selection turned out to be appropriate in a couple of ways. First, it’s called a Roman Cooler, so it’s perfect for Italian food, if you dig adorable little ethnic food and beverage pairings. Second, it’s perfect for this Mixology Monday theme: cocktails for the cocktail first-timer. Okay, Punt e Mes will probably tank this thing (I’m also past the deadline here on the West Coast), since they caution that “[f]olks are afraid of words they don’t know or understand,” but I’m linking it up anyway. It’s the flavor that counts.
Punt e Mes, as cocktail scientists know, is an Italian vermouth named (so Wikipedia instructs us) for the “point and a half” gain in the stock market that allowed the Carpano distillery to release it. I’ll assume that’s true, because it’s a good story and I doubt any of the mouth-breathers and hikikomori who write Wikipedia could have made it up on their own. The bitter, brown stuff shouldn’t scare off anybody, as it’s only a fraction—a good one, it turns out—of the whole drink. Begin by juicing a couple lemons through a cheesecloth. You can use the bottled stuff, and if you’re at a bar that’s probably what you’ll get.
Put an ounce and a half of gin in a shaker full of ice. Add a half ounce (three teaspoons) each of Punt e Mes and lemon juice, then a teaspoon of fine sugar. Shake. (Always have rhythm in your shaking.) Strain into a 10-ounce glass full of ice, and top with soda water. I only had an Edward 16-ounce highball glass, so I used my jigger to determine a fill line.
The title of this post is the only phrase I remember how to say in Italian—I had a year of it in college—except for “Ho paura dei vampiri,” which means, “I am afraid of vampires.” The title of this post means, “I love orange soda,” and orange soda—ice-cold, carbonated, alcoholic orange soda, with a hint of “botanicals”—is just what this tastes like. Lemon plus some foreign-sounding bitter stuff plus carbonation equals something finely calibrated to the vestal palate. And, it turns out, to my palate. Stay tuned for the food pairing.