Inspired by another bout of warm weather – and a comment on my recent Campari posting by a lady who remembers her mother’s Dubonnet and a red soda siphon that was out of bounds – I’m turning again to aperitifs. This time fortified wines.
These are wines which have been strengthened – in their flavour and alcoholicness – by being made with the addition of a distilled spirit such as brandy.
SHERRY – is always from the area of Cadiz in southern Spain or else it just isn’t sherry. And that’s not me being prissy, sherry is like champagne in that it has to come from a particular place to be called that. The sherry types which are driest and therefore most suitable as an aperitif are fino, manzanilla, manzanilla pasada and amontillado. Drink these sherries cold, maybe over a cube or two of ice, to get the most out of the flavours.
Ideally, I think it’s best to serve these sherries in a copita glass. Partly because the narrow taper enhances the sherry’s flavours, partly because that’s how the Spanish do it and if it’s good enough for them etc etc. But I can’t deny that my preference for the copita also has something to do with the cream sherry connotations of the more traditional sherry glasses which have been collecting dust in sideboards across the country for generations.
And that’s the problem when it comes to the cream sherries, by which surely we all mean Harveys Bristol Cream. They and it are still struggling to shake off the image of being the favoured christmas tipple of grannies. That it is the bottle which she would dig around for in the back of her drinks cupboard each year and take her annual sip of. The thing is though, grannies – as ever – are smart cookies who know a thing or too. Cream sherries are lovely blends of sherries; mainly fino, amontillado, oloroso and the Pedro Ximenez which gives it its sweetness and creaminess. And they have absolutely nothing to do with dairy products. As with the other sherries, serve as an aperitif very cold or even over ice. And make a silent toast to grannies everywhere.
VERMOUTH – broadly speaking comes as pale vermouths which are dry, and red vermouths which are sweeter. Any vermouth can make a terrific aperitif when served over ice in a copita or old-fashioned glass; but there are particular brands which have their own distinct identities.
Cinzano – was the name of the family who owned the herbal shop where this drink was created. How proud Senora Cinzano would have been to know that her little Giovanni and Carlo’s concoction would be still be going strong two hundred and odd years later.
There are four types of Cinzano, each based on either Italian red or white wines; and each lovely as an aperitif poured into an old-fashioned glass that has been packed with ice. If you use the Rosso, two olives on a cocktail stick marry well with its flavours. Otherwise, use a slice of lime or lemon to garnish.
As with Campari, soda water releases the flavours. So to make a Cinzano Soda, fill an old-fashioned glass with ice, pour over two measures of whichever Cinzano and one of soda water. And then just enjoy this too good aperitif, suffused with herbs and spices from four continents.
Dubonnet – or ‘Things One’s Mother Definitely Did Tell One’. Whilst watching at her mother’s knee our Queen learnt that a Dubonnet before lunch can help one traverse the complexities of royal life. The Queen Mother once left a note stipulating that, “I think that I will take 2 small bottles of Dubonnet and gin with me this morning, in case it is needed.” Cricket must have induced the need in her daughter, as the Queen once caused a bit of a flurry at Lords when she asked for a Dubonnet but one could not be readily found.
Dubonnet Rouge (as preferred by Their Royal Mothernesses) is the one to go for.
Dubonnet on the rocks – fill an old-fashioned glass with ice and pour over two measures of Dubonnet.
Dubonnet and soda – two measures of Dubonnet into a Tom Collins or highball glass. Add a couple of ice cubes, top up with soda and stir. Finish with a slice or a twist of lemon.