Monday, June 02, 2008

Thoughts on Grappa and Such

I have sort changed the way I think of drink/food pairing recently with respect to fat versus acid. When balancing a dish or plate, chefs do this as a matter of fact, almost without thinking about it. Vinaigrette is the perfect example of this, oil and acid in balance act as a vehicle for pretty much any flavoring imaginable. Behind the bar, we don't get to work with fats very often. I know the more contrarian reader is muttering 'eggs and milk' to himself right now, but I counter that dairy is really more about texture than flavor in respect to cocktails.

So what do we do about pairing a drink to fatty (I say this in a good way) foods. The easy answer for me used to be acid in the form of citrus. Margarita's vs. avocados, whiskey sours vs. bacon, sidecars vs. cream get the idea. While this does work well, it is a little too easy and kind of clumsy at times.

I have found myself drifting towards using alcohol alone as a foil and compliment for fat, most specifically, with desserts. It started with simply pairing sipping rums and whiskies which can be brilliant with heavier desserts. I always had trouble with the lighter stuff till recently. A good buddy of mine and beautiful barman, Ryan Fitzgerald, was at my bar the other night finishing his meal with a chevre cake. Think cream cheese cake, but with some goaty funk (awesome btw!!!). I like rolling out new cocktails for guys like R. and I clearly didn't want to go citrus both because this was dessert and because the cake is so delicate that I could easily run it over.

Enter grappa. The high proof and clean burn of grappa cuts right through the cream and goatiness of the chevre much the same way as citrus would, but without leaving any kind of residual acid on the palate. My first thought was Veloce/Dimmi, a favorite of us both. I tried a mini trial 50/50 of grappa di brunello and Veloce... not bad. Then I subbed in an aged Aquavit for the grappa to bring in some spice to the mix and it was perfect. Think of taking a bite of sweet goat cheese then washing it away with peach blossoms and cardamon.

That's nice.

Fitzy's Foil:

1 oz. Veloce/Dimmi

1 oz. Aquavit (I like the stuff from North Shore in Chicago)

build in cordial glass, do not chill, do not garnish

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