Monday, December 22, 2014

Amatuer Flight: Aperitif / Digestif liqueurs

This is my first posting of an amateur flight. I've done several posts I call beginner flights, simple, accessible samplings for beginners to get their feet wet and experience the different varieties of spirits. This one I call an amateur sampling as I think one should have a foundation on spirits before they try a flight of these liqueurs straight. Most beginner drinkers might find some of these off-putting or too bizarre. Don't get discouraged, it took me a while to start to enjoy these flavors. 

Aperitifs and digestifs are a daunting group of spirits. Everyone knows vermouth is used in martinis and manhattans, but few even know what it is. You can drink these spirits on their own and in cocktails. They were not designed to be drank mixed up like so many liqueurs today. Most of them have a very long history and ought to be tried in their pure form.

1. Campari:
Campari is a fairly bitter liqueur first made in 1860, that most Americans admittedly don't like at first. It does take some getting used to. Americans are used to sweeter more savory things. Evolutionarily speaking bitter flavors became associated with poisons. Most medicines tend to carry a bitter flavor as well. Campari has a sweet note as well as a bitter one which can be a bit confusing, but once you start to feel the levels of the spirit you can start to see it's versatility in cocktails. One of my favorite drinks actually is the Boulevardier: bourbon, sweet vermouth, and Campari. It's very similar to a Manhattan but instead of Angostura Bitters, it adds this nice semi-sweet orange note to the drink, as well as having a color with a bit more pop.

2. Aperol: 
Aperol was created in 1919, coincidentally the year prohibition started in the United States, but it gained popularity in other countries. Some people think of Aperol as a more mild form of Campari. It pairs well with sparkling white wines and other more delicate flavors. In fairness, the proof is less than half that of Campari. The sugar content remains the same, however. When tasting this spirit straight you will say it tastes sweeter, as the other flavors are lessened the sweetness shines through a bit more. The flavor remains quite similar to Campari, bitter orange, with other notes of gentian, rhubarb, and cinchona. While Campari typically pairs with some more heavy spirits like whiskey and some gin cocktails, Aperol is more at home among softer flavors.

3. Fernet Branca: 
Fernet is an Italian amaro, made from a number of herbs and spices like myrrh, aloe, and saffron built over a grape spirit base. Fernet Branca has developed a massive cult following among craft bartenders. The herbal flavor profile again not very palatable to a number of drinkers not familiar with the craft cocktail world and assorted types of amaro. This liqueur has almost developed a sense of elitism. Ask any craft bartender if the like Fernet and they will smile and start to treat you with a higher level of respect unless you're like me and say you don't like it. It is served as a digestif, meaning it is taken after dinner to close the palette. Sometimes it will go with some coffee or espresso. The aroma is a lot like black licorice.

4. J
Jägermeister translated it means "Master of the hunt". Jäger has a great following of loyal drinkers. They don't see themselves as better educated though, or different in any way. They just like a rather odd drink. Jäger has a strong flavor of black licorice; some people actually equate it to cough syrup. It has gained a decent following in dive and college bars from the novelty of the Jäger Bomb. That combined with the iconic, near-indestructible, bottle and the old stories of deer blood in the recipe, along with the German prayer written on the label of every bottle and you gain quite a name for yourself. Not everyone will drink Jäger, but everyone knows what is. Jäger is quite unique in that it's one of very few spirits meant to be served ice-cold, yet straight. You can actually buy a custom Jägerator refrigerator to dispense instant ice cold Jager. Zehn kleine Jägermeister.

"There can't be good living where there is not good drinking." 
- Benjamin Franklin

Photo Credit: Wikimedia, Food Facts

No comments:

Post a Comment