To the beach today so orecchiette lesson delayed till tomorrow. Weather up here in Martina Franca was cloudy but 15 miles away on the beach it was superb. Lots of people there and a few intrepid swimmers went in and came out very quickly indeed. End of June is when it gets warm enough for me at about 24C ( 76F). Puglia has no rivers, the limestone rock base means that water permeates through and forms underground rivers that wind their way to the sea. The very cold water from the melted mountain snow then bubbles up a few hundred yards into the sea. Even in August it can mean exciting swimming as you suddenly hit a bubbling area that is way colder than the rest of the sea.
Sunday evening is cocktail time in the Jones household. This habit started whilst in Canada when good friends living near us would invite us around for Manhattans shaken in a shell casing his father had bought back from WWII. We have continued the tradition ever since minus the shell casing and toast their continued good health.
Now living in Italy I have been fishing around for a cocktail that is Italian both in flavour and invention and have landed on this one as my favourite especially in the summer.
In 1919 Count Camillo Negroni used to drink in the Caffe Casoni in Florence and his tipple was the Americano a mix of Campari Bitters and Martini Rosso topped up with soda water. However feeling somewhat hungover one evening he asked the barman Fosco Scarseli to liven it up and give it a kick. Fosco ditched the soda and added Gordons Gin. So the negroni cocktail was born. It really is very moorish and as an apperitivo makes any meal go with a bang as long as you don’t have too many. If you are ever in Florence and want to relive this slice of drinking history then the bar is now the Caffe Cavalli.
If you want to make it into an all Italian drink then drop the gin and add prosecco instead. This is a negroni sbagliato or wrong negroni.
How super to have a cocktail named after you. it must be every drinkers dream. But how many are named after people you ask ? Well not many as it turns out, which makes the negroni so good . These are a couple of others whose contents I have enjoyed drinking over the years.
The Gibson was named after the shipping magnate D.K. Gibson. Now he sounds like my kind of magnate. He loved dry martini but felt that shaking it ” bruised the gin” and so insisted on his being stirred not shaken ( eat your heart out Mr. Bond). Anyway so he could tell which was his drink on the bar he told the barman to put an onion in it instead of an olive. Today most barmen bruise the poor gin and the Gibson is just the onion. I actually think he was right and still stir mine though I had never thought that shaking it was bruising my gin.
Margaret Sarnes was a Dallas Texas Socialite who went on an holiday to Mexico in 1940 . There she discovered the delights of tequilla and had her favourite barman make her a drink of tequilla, cointreau and lime juice. The margarita was born .
However there never was a Tom Collins. In 1874 a hoax craze hit New York. The game was to say to a friend that you had just met a man called Tom Collins who, you claimed, clearly knew the person you were talking to but was saying all kinds of very nasty things about them . The person you were hoaxing would become agitated and you would tell him/her to go to a particular place where you had just seen Tom Collins. The person would rush off and confront people asking if they were Tom Collins ! By 1886 a barman had invented a cocktail to go with the hoax.
However there was a Harvey who drank in Dukes Bar on Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood in the early 50’s. He was a surfer by day and a drinker by night. His is the famous wallbanger.
And finally I did once venture into Harry’s Bar in Venice and drank one of his minuscule bellini cocktails . The name came from the painting in the bar by Giovanni Bellini and the toga in the painting was the same colour as the drink . It is a great Italian drink especially once the peaches come into season in a month or so’s time.