Monday 30 April 2012

Amaro April: "Intro To Aperol" From Audrey Saunders of Pegu Club

"Forty miles up the Rangoon River in the land of the Golden Pagodas, on the hot balmy nights of the late 1800's, one might find themselves at the Pugu Club," as the website for Pegu Club in New York puts it. Pegu itself is a place of rich history - a battleground in both Burmese wars before being taken over by the British in the mid 19th century - and as Kipling puts it in "Sea to Sea," the club was "always filled with lots of people either on their way up or on their way down." The club had a house-cocktail, as most clubs do, but this one became wildly popular everywhere, landing itself in Craddock's Savoy Cocktail Book in 1930, and surviving today because of its perfect balance. Fast forward to 2005, when Audrey Saunders opens a new bar in New York with 27 gins and 3 vodkas (which for the record are kept underneath the bar not on its shelves), at a time when, as she puts it, "99 percent of all the bars in New York had at least 20 vodkas on the back-bar and maybe 3 gins," and names it after this gin classic.

Audrey Saunders, whose original background was in cuisine, famously took one seminar from Dale DeGroff on mixology in the mid 1990's - during the dark ages of the cocktail when such a focus was unheard of - and was smitten. She went on to run several famous and award-winning bar programs in New York before finally opening Pegu Club in 2005, a name that consistently ends up on everyone's top bar lists, and greatly contributed to making some amazing products more accessible and better known, including Chartreuse, Punt e Mes, and yes - amari. Audrey's accomplishments and awards, along with those of Pegu Club are way too vast to mention or even summarize here, and my guess is that if you're reading this blog, you probably already know all this anyway.

Audrey is also one of the most influential and earliest "mixologists" in the sense that she was experimenting with infusions and really modern creative ideas from an experimental and culinary perspective. David Wondrich calls Audrey a "research mixologist, applying scientific method to her cocktails," giving the example of infusing vodka with only pith, the white part of a citrus peel that should be removed to avoid bitterness, just to see how bitter her infusion will be. While most bars were still just learning about how to mix Campari or Chartreuse by going backwards to historical cocktail books, Audrey was already infusing them with fruit to see what she could come up with, something that is fairly common practice now, but even five years ago was fairly outlandish. In fact, for a Canadian perspective, it was actually illegal in B.C. to infuse alcohol with anything until two or three years ago. Now look at where we are with places like The Keefer and The Refinery doing what they do.

Needless to say, it is a great honour to receive a recipe from Audrey for Amaro April, and it's a delicious one at that. Aperol first became available in the U.S. in 2006, and since nobody was familiar with it, she created a cocktail to introduce its flavours through a fairly simple but excellently balanced drink. It's an inverted cocktail, in that the Aperol is 2:1 to the gin, and the gin "acts as a spine for the drink and allows it to stand up, avoiding any potential flabbiness," as she puts it. Beefeater is specifically chosen for its citrus botanicals, namely orange and lemon, which match the lemon juice and strong orange character in the Aperol. Finally, Audrey chooses a flamed orange peel to "deepen the essential oil and mellow it, which works well with the overall brightness of the drink's profile."
Aside from being very tasty, this one is perfect for anyone interested but unfamiliar with Aperol or amari in general as it's very palatable, but still has just a hint of the bitter and herbal character that are the staple of any amaro. It's also very easy to make at home, opposed to the majority of what we've seen this month, so it's a great place to start.

Intro To Aperol

2 oz Aperol
1 oz Beefeater Gin
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
1/4 oz Simple Syrup (1:1)
1 dash Angostura Bitters

Add all ingredients with ice and shake. Strain into a cocktail glass.Garnish with a flamed orange peel.

A quick note on flaming a peel: if you haven't done it before, simply cut a thick and fairly large piece of orange peel and hold it over your glass. Let the flame from your lighter or match touch the peel for a few seconds to heat the oil, then squeeze the oils over the drink like you normally would - through the flame. This will create a small spark of fire (don't worry it's not dangerous). Then drop the peel in the drink.

A big thank you to to Audrey and Pegu Club for contributing; I am most honoured and humbled. If you are at all unfamiliar with her contribution, please just google and catch up, and if you're in New York and haven't been there you should be ashamed and rectify this immediately.

[[ See my post on amaro digestivos here ]]
[[ See my post on amaro aperivos here ]]
[[ See a buying guide for amaro here ]]

[[ See "The One Hit Wonder" from L'abattoir in Vancouver here ]]
[[ See "The Penny Farthing" from Pourhouse here ]]
[[ See an introduction to amaro  here ]]
[[ See "The Imperial Eagle" from Bourbon & Branch here ]]
[[ See "Sevilla" from Beretta here ]]
[[ See "Fallow Grave" from the Toronto Temperance Society here ]]
[[ See "The Black Prince" from Phil Ward here ]]
[[ See "Bad Apple" and "Jackson Ward" from Amor y Amargo here ]]
[[ See "The Four Horsemen" from Jay Jones at Shangri-La here ]]
[[ See Colin MacDougall from Blue Water Cafe here ]]
[[ See "Debbie Don't" from Dutch Kills here ]]
[[ See "Foolish Games" from Russel Davis here ]]
[[ See "Welcome To The Dark Side" from Cin Cin here ]]

[[ Photography courtesy of Pegu Club, and Tales of the Cocktail ]]

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