Posts Tagged Mirto

Top 10 Spirits And Cocktails Of 2012

19 December 2012
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As I assembled this list, paging through a year’s worth of blog posts, I found myself rather startled at the breadth and diversity of the drinks I consumed in the past year. But even more, I felt profoundly grateful to have had the opportunity to sample everything from Nicaraguan rum in Nicaragua to Cognac in Cognac.

I sipped a lot of amazing things in 2012, but there were a number of true standouts. As is the fashion at this time of year, here is my list of the Top 10 Spirits and Cocktails I drank in 2012. The links lead to the original blog posts about the drinks:

10. SPICE TRADE — I consumed this cocktail of genever, vermouth, star anise, galangal syrup and persimmon water at Madame Geneva, an atmospheric bar just off the Bowery in Manhattan. With that intimidating list of ingredients, this is one cocktail I won’t be making at home! The floating star anise garnish provided an aromatic introduction, and I loved its orange, anise and juniper flavors. It would have been easy to make this cocktail too sweet, but it tasted well-balanced and finished dry.

9. SPACE FILLER — The mixologist at Root in New Orleans came up with this cocktail, composed of rye whiskey, loganberry liqueur and lemon juice. It tasted surprisingly complex, with notes of berries, citrus and wood; sweet and sour elements positively danced on my palate.

8. FENTIMAN’S ROSE LEMONADE & GIN — I never came up with a name for this mixture of Fentiman’s delightful rose lemonade soda and gin, but it deserves a moniker as refreshing as its flavor. This combo smells amazing, with aromas of rose and juniper co-mingling beautifully. Aromatic, tart, not too sweet, complex — this was the whole package.

7. XORIGUER GIN — Speaking of gin, a bottle of this Menorcan beauty cost me only 12 euro, a smashing deal considering the flavor it packs. Sipped neat at room temperature, the gin didn’t feel silky smooth, but it tasted wonderfully complex, with notes of juniper, anise, rose, white pepper and even incense. What a shame this gin isn’t yet available in the U.S.! Hopefully that will change in 2013.

6. MIRTO — I found this digestif on another sensationally scenic Mediterranean island, Sardinia. Made from local myrtle berries, the mirto I brought home tasted of ripe cherries, something herbal, like eucalyptus perhaps, and cinnamon on the finish. It was positively delightful, both at room temperature and chilled (how it’s usually served). And it made some thoroughly delicious cocktails.

5.  — I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw this cocktail on the menu at the Four Seasons Chicago. It contained Crème Yvette, a violet-based liqueur that hadn’t been produced in the last 50 years. But there it was, coelacanth-like, in the A², a concoction of Journeyman W.R. Whiskey, Crème Yvette, yuzu juice (a small grapefruit-like fruit) and Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur. The cocktail had an aroma of purple grapes, a strong, fruity flavor with some tangy citrus notes, and a dry, floral finish. A well-balanced and elegant drink.

4. FLOR DE CANA 18-YEAR CENTENARIO GOLD — This gorgeous Nicaraguan rum sucked me in with aromas of vanilla cake and brown sugar and sealed the deal with flavors of vanilla, oak and orange peel. Very rich, with a finish that went on and on.

3. BIJOU — Even if it served merely middling cocktails, the Ranstead Room in Philadelphia would still be worth a visit for its speakeasy-like location and sexy decor straight out of a Mad Men episode. But add in spectacular cocktails crafted with meticulous care, and you have a bar that alone makes a journey to Philly worthwhile. My bartender stirred up a Bijou, a wonderfully smooth mix of Beefeater Gin, Green Chartreuse, Dolin Blanc Vermouth and lemon zest. The aromatics of the gin, the herbaceous bitterness of the Chartreuse, the touch of smooth sweetness from the vermouth — it came together like a flavor symphony.

2. HINE TRIOMPHE — So beautiful was this blend of Grande Champagne Cognacs averaging around 50 years old, with extraordinarily velvety caramel and tobacco flavors, that it brought tears to my eyes. Cellar Master Eric Forget, seeing my reaction, quietly remarked, “It’s not a Cognac. It’s just a pleasure.” Indeed.

1. HENNESSY PARADIS IMPERIAL — This remarkable Cognac also reduced me to tears. Only this time, it was in front of the Cognac Summit’s videographer, camera rolling! Embarrassing, yes, but anyone who has tasted this ambrosial liquid can understand my emotional response. It was a sublime moment, tasting something so profoundly exquisite in so lovely a setting as Hennessy’s Château de Bagnolet. I learned later that the Paradis Impérial blend contains Cognacs dating from the 19th century. I drank liquid history! It’s humbling to think about all the work — and all the waiting — that went into producing that glass of Cognac.

Next up: My Top 10 Wines of 2012

Liquore di Mirto

25 October 2012

As is often the case, the name of this liqueur sounds better in Italian. “Liquore di mirto” has more power to stir the heart than “myrtle berry liqueur.” Myrtle berry liqueur sounds like something I might try for the blog, since I haven’t the faintest idea what a myrtle berry even tastes like, but it’s not something I would see in a liquor store and snatch off the shelf. I tend to be suspicious of berry-flavored liqueurs — they’re usually just too syrupy and sweet, occasionally veering towards the medicinal.

But on a cruise this past April, I had a port of call in Sardinia, the Mediterranean’s second-largest island. I knew of three Sardinian specialties. First, wine made from the Cannonau grape, which one can find in the U.S. fairly easily. Second, Casu Marzu, a cheese made more… ripe? is that the word? …by allowing fly larvae to grow in the cheese and partially digest it. The cheese is typically consumed when the larvae are still alive. I consider myself strong of stomach, but after seeing a video of this cheese in action, I knew this option was out.

That left mirto, and I was determined to find some. Our guide, after showing us some mysterious megalithic ruins and picturesque resort towns, took me to a supermarket in a strip mall, and I procured a bottle. It was worth the effort.

I opened it recently with Scott, who assisted me with the Cherry Pie Martini, and we took a sip, not really knowing what to expect. It tasted of ripe cherries, something herbal, like eucalyptus perhaps, and cinnamon on the finish. It was positively delightful, both at room temperature and chilled (how it’s usually served).

It seemed a shame to mix it with anything, but when alcohol is involved, shame is a feeling I can easily overcome. Gin seemed the most obvious place to start, since its botanicals would likely work well with the herbal qualities of the mirto. We came up with a very simple and absolutely delicious cocktail, which we dubbed, for better or worse, the Mirtini.


2 parts gin (I used Death’s Door)

1 part mirto

1/2 part fresh-squeezed lemon juice

Combine the above in a shaker filled with ice, agitate, and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon, if you’re feeling extra fancy. The drink starts with bright notes from the botanicals in the gin and moves into the more grounded, darker notes of the mirto before finishing with a flash of brandied cherries and cinnamon. The lemon holds it together, providing necessary texture and enhancing the flavors.

We thought the cherry notes of the mirto could also work with something brown, in the manner of a Manhattan. Cognac seemed like a good place to start, since brandy and cherries seem made for each other. Here we used mirto in the place of sweet vermouth in a Manhattan, and came up with, if you’ll forgive us, the Mirhattan.


2 parts Cognac

1 part mirto

3-4 dashes orange bitters

Combine the above in a shaker filled with ice, agitate, and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a slice of orange peel, if you like. Scott remarked that the cocktail smelled “like expensive soap,” and I was hard pressed to disagree. Nevertheless, it tasted round, rich, spicy and sweet. It was great fun, and perfect for the cooler weather.

If you can get your hands on some mirto, by all means buy it. It’s delightful by itself, and I have a feeling the two cocktails described above are only the beginning of its mixological potential. Type in the words “mirto liqueur” into a search engine, and you’ll find some U.S. retailers which sell it, typically for $25 to $30.