Thursday, November 8, 2012
I usually plan out my blog posts at least a week in advance. But I didn’t really know what today’s post would be. Because I didn’t know the tone I’d want to project.
Would I be celebrating? Or drowning my sorrows?
Either way, I figured cocktails would come into play.
As it turns out I’m celebrating big time. I hope you are too. I am optimistic once again, that things can really change as we move into the future.
And so today’s post explores cocktails of the future. Or, rather, Futuristic cocktails. (and yes, the ‘f’ was supposed to be capitlized)
While in Torino last month I was invited to a cocktail party where master mixologist Fulvio Piccinino promised to introduce me into the brave new world of Futurist Cocktails.
A bit of background: Futurism was a cultural and artistic movement started by a man named Fillippo Tommaso Marinetti in Italy in the early 20th century. You’re probably familiar with some of the artists and their works that came out of this movement: Giacomo Balla, Umberto Boccioni and Gino Severini. Marinetti, the theorist of the group, proclaimed a loathing of past and embraced the future and everything he thought came with it: speed, originality, daring and inovation.
He wrote about almost every topic - art, science, clothing, religion, cooking and - unbeknownst to me- cocktails.
Since Marinetti and the rest of the Futurists were intense nationalists he didn't actually use the word cocktail though. All usage of Americanisms vanished from his vocabulary. And so lo shaker became l'agiatore, il barman became il miscelatore. And il cocktail became la polibibita.
The polibibita recipes were rigorously nationalistic too, and featured only Italian ingredients. No foreign whiskeys, vodkas or brandies, thank you very much. And while Marinetti encouraged his followers to create new recipes, at the same time he also wanted to inspire inspiration and invention. Which is why no quantities are ever given. His thinking? "Every error of quantity could give way to an entirely new recipe each time."
And since Marinetti also disdained the ordinary, most of the cocktails feature not only weird and wacky combinations of alcohols, but also savory garnishes.
Sounded good to me.
Fulvio mixed me up two
The first was the Carrousel d’Alcol, which was invented by the set designer and painter Prampolini. The drink was one of the few drinks to make it out of the pages of Futurist manifestos, and on to bar counters, since it was actually presented at the World’s Fair in Paris in 1931, as part of a Futurist exhibit.
I have to admit when I read the ingredients I kind of shuddered: Barbera d'Asti , lemon soda and Campari. Yuck, right?
Well, wrong. It was actually delicious. And very drinkable. It was sort of like how you imagine a grown up soda tasting. The garnish? A square of cheese. Brilliant. Why aren’t more people using cheese for garnish?
The next drink was the Simultanea. This masterpiece was invented by the fervent (turns out most Futurists are fervent) Futurist Dr. Vernazza. Here the ingredients were Vernaccio di Oristano, Cocchi Vermouth and Stravecchio Branca brandy.
Again. Yuck ,I think. Because of their commitment to 100% Italian ingredients, you’ve got an Italian sherry and an Italian brandy that are more likely to be seen at truck stops than at cutting edge mixologists bars. But....again, it worked. It wasn’t just random luck, I’m thinking. These guys actually knew what went in to a good cocktail.
The garnish here was even better than the cheese. A very fresh date is stuffed with ricotta that has been mixed with a bit of Aurum liqueur. The entire thing is wrapped in a thin slice of prosciutto and put on a toothpick. Once put in the glass “....eyes of fat deposited by the ham will appear on the surface of the liquid: in this case the drink will be called ‘This Little Piggy that Makes Eyes at You.”
Is this the best name for a cocktail ever?
Unfortunately I had to run off to dinner before getting to try the third cocktail of the evening: the Avanera. This one combined Storico Vermouth di Torino Cocchi with Strega and Brandy.
Since I happen to have all of these ingredients already (being the good little Italian nationalist miscelatore that I am) I’m all prepared to mix one up tonight.
Because the future looks bright to me and I have reason to celebrate. And a Futuristic Cocktail seems the perfect way to do that.
Cheers to the next four years,
Invented by Dr. Vernazza
Inspired by Boccioni’s panting “Visioni Simultanee”
4 cl Vernaccia di Oristano
3 cl Storico Vermouth di Torino Cocchi
1 cl Stravecchio Branca brandy
Garnish: date stuffed with orange liquor infused ricotta and wrapped in prosciutto.
Invented by Engineer Barosi
3 cl Strorico Vermouth di Torino Cocchi
1 cl Strega
1 cl Brandy Italiano Arzente
Invented by Prampolini
6 cl Barbera d’ Asti red wine
3 cl Cedrata Tassoni
3 cl Campari
cube of cheese, for garnish
*Since Marinetti never indicated quantities, the ones above are Fulvio's interpretations. I think they worked quite well. But feel free to be very Futuristic about the whole thing.