Friday, April 04, 2008


I've been having a love affair with Campari lately. I had ordered one out of curiosity at Tapas Christmas night. Dave C, Jose, and I had eaten a fatty (and somewhat disgusting) meal at Senor Frogs while, in the background, tourists and their children to act like they were at a wild party rather than at a family theme restaurant (the theme being, Spring Break! - minus the wet t-shirts and desperate frat boys).

So I needed a drink (not that we hadn't been drinking since noon, but we hadn't had anything after dinner yet), and all my usuals didn't sound right. Bitters sounded right, something to settle my stomach - and so Campari and Soda it was.

And so it was again. I wasn't even sure if I liked the first sip - it's a bit eccentric. I definitely liked the last sip.

Had it again, with orange juice, in Munich. And again on the plane ride home.

And that was all she wrote, homeboys. It's been my drink of choice since. I still like my Manhattan's and Old-Fashioneds and Martinis (assuming they're made properly, with gin and vermouth) - but these days I'm more likely to make a Negroni at home (gin, vermouth, and Campari, garnished with a burnt orange peel ... I haven't dared order it a bar yet for fear of what I'll get), or a Campari and soda, or even better, a Campari and Orange. I splurged once and bought a bottle of Gavioli Blood Orange soda, and that was beyond good - and beyond my day to day budget, unfortunately. My kalamansi is full of fruit, strange little oranges with bitter flesh but a sweet peel, and half of one is the perfect garnish.

SO okey-dokey. I went to Safeway instead of Tamuras tonight, and they wanted thirty bucks for a bottle of Campari. Which: fuck off, Safeway.

And so I met Campari's evil twin, Fernet-Branca. I knew nothing about this beyond that it was made with lots of herbs, it was from Italy, it's popular at Argentine barbecues, and San Francisco consumers more than any other city. It's a cult favorite there, apparently.

The San Fran trivia should have warned me. Sometimes that City tries to hard. But I've been curious about Fernet-Branca, & tonight seemed the night.

The bottle says Fernet-Branca si beve liscio, con ghiaccio, nel caffe, oppure con acqua natural, minerale, cola, soda o altre bibite gassate.

I can understand enough of that to get the gist of it: add it to anything you want.

I look up Fernet-Branca cocktails online. There's not many, though I learn that it's made with in Milan with a base of gape alcohol and 40 herbs and spices, including myrrh, rhubarb, chamomile, cardamom and saffron. I also learn that people compare their first taste to rubber bands, listerine, or ... my favorite ... Catholicism. It must be the myrrh.

Or the sense of penance that you get while drinking it. I was worried I'd just wasted some bucks, but I poured half a shot.

I tasted burnt oil.

I tried half a shot with lemon soda. I tasted burnt oil with lemon. A dash of cream didn't help. I tried a quarter of a shot with coffee - the most popular on-line combination. Still wasn't working. I did the dishes, and then tried the tiniest of sips. I started to taste some background flavors. Mint, I think. Maybe anise. And definitely radiator fluid.

Friends, this shit is rough. Maybe it's good for you. I'll give it a few more shots (heh) ... but I don't think that this is going to be one that I'll learn to savor and enjoy. I think it'l be more like cheap tequila: a quick shot followed by a quick chaser.

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