You’ve got your list of foodstuffs of which you are not particularly fond. I’ve got mine. On it is the humble artichoke, not so much because of taste as appearance. I don’t like to baffled by what I’m eating. Artichokes, with their puzzle of petals and strangely fleshy hearts, seem more the product of a video game designer’s imagination than nature.
Little wonder, though, that artichokes would factor in a liqueur. As Amy Stewart observes in her book The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World’s Great Drinks they have long been viewed a digestive aid, a reputation borne out by contemporary research: “they may stimulate bile production, protect the liver, and lower cholesterol levels.”
What better place to begin, then, than with a classic? That’s what Audrey Saunders of New York’s Pegu Club did when she created the Little Italy. The Manhattan may have spawned the Brooklyn, which in turn gave rise to a host of borough-based offspring, but Saunders’ progeny sticks to the original stomping grounds enough that there’s no need to cross the East River to name it. (Note that her preparation calls for a little syrup from authentic maraschino cherries, but some of that elixir always finds its way into the glass when I’m mixing the drinks.) The Little Italy is a bitter Manhattan with a dense flavor, and consequently I’d take it closer to the source and add a dash of Angostura or aromatic bitters. It’s the perfect introduction to a liqueur that shouldn’t work, yet does beautifully.
The Little Italy
Audrey Saunders, New York
2 oz. rye
½ oz. Cynar
¾ oz. sweet vermouth
Stir. Strain. Garnish with authentic maraschino cherries.
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