1 1/2 oz Aperol
1 1/2 Sweet Vermouth [Noilly Prat]
1/4 oz Maraschino Liqueur [Luxardo]
Combine in a glass, stir with ice. Strain into an ice filled rocks glass. Top with club soda and an orange twist.
This week is the second installment of my Bar Starter Kit series. Last week we tackled Gin and orange liqueur with the Pegu Club. Today, we’re taking a lower alcohol approach as we reach for Aperol, Sweet Vermouth and Maraschino Liqueur. The first two are bonafied workhorses in the bar, working well with a wide range of spirits. Maraschino liqueur is a good one because it lends a very distinctive flavor to cocktails, something a little different than other fruit based liqueurs.
First some quick background info on these guys. Aperol is a bright pink Italian liqueur. While not technically an amaro, it does have a good amount of that family’s trademark bitterness, as well as sharp citrus notes. It’s kind of the little brother to Campari, which is more bitter and higher in alcohol. It’s most famous usage is probably an Aperol Spritz, which is a perfect example of less is more.
Next we have sweet vermouth. Along with it’s fraternal twin, dry vermouth, it is an important component in too many cocktails to name (don’t worry, I’ll get to some of them in the next few weeks). It’s a fortified wine that has various spices added, for a complex flavor with a slight sweetness. France and Italy are the most well known producers, but other countries and jumping in the mix, including the U.S. I’m a fan of Dolin and Noilly Prat, but taste a few and see what you like. Just remember, it is wine-based so it has a shorter shelf life. I combat this by purchasing small bottles, and keeping them in the fridge once opened.
Lastly we have maraschino liqueur, yet another italian spirit (well look at that). It’s distilled from the marasca cherry, which has a sour flavor to it. The resulting liqueur is fruity, funky and slightly bitter all at the same time. Often it’s easy to pick it out in a cocktail because of its unique flavor. Luxardo is the most famous brand, but you can find other more budget friendly options out there too.
When thinking about a drink with these three bottles, I first considered the Americano. This classic equal parter is tough to beat on a warm summer day. Since I’m featuring Aperol, which I already mentioned is like a tamer Campari, an Aperol Americano seemed like the natural way to go. But I wanted to add just a little more interest to the drink, and that’s where the maraschino liqueur comes in.
The nose of the drink is like a softer Americano, along with some cherry notes coming through. The sip is not as bracingly bitter as the traditional version, but there is an added layer of complexity thanks to the maraschino liqueur. Everything is just a little more rounded, with the citrus, cherry, and grape all swirling around each other. There is still a brightness though that makes this quite refreshing.
So now we’re up to five bottles. And, wait a minute, we used gin last week. Now we have sweet vermouth…hmmm…sounds like a Martinez to me. And it doesn’t stop there, put down the sweet vermouth, grab the maraschino liqueur and a lemon, and you’ve got yourself an Aviation! See what you can do with just a few bottles.