Giro d’Italia: American Whiskey, Italian Soul
By Clive Pursehouse
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There are so many Italian cocktail options that offer sophisticated, deep and resonant flavors, like some of the herbal Amaros that make us all swoon. And who doesn’t love Campari? As the first Grand Tour of the season, the Giro marks a turning point toward summer and the weather we associate with it (despite how it looked in the Dolomites). So a summer cocktail seems in order.
Ruben Bansie is the mixologist at the hip Brooklyn spot (is that redundant) Bar Velo, and his cocktail, aptly named the Giro d’Italia, has become perhaps my all time favorite (deadly serious). And I assure you it has little to do with the name.
“It’s a culinary approach to cocktails, using savory flavors in balance with acid and sweet,” says Bansie. “Meant to be like a refreshing garden whisky sour. Pairs well with summer food.” I stumbled upon it last summer with a simple Google search for “whiskey cocktail” and have been making it ever since.
You can make this cocktail with Bourbon but I actually prefer American rye whiskey. There are a limited number of Italian whiskies, and the top flight producer is Puni. The whiskies are made in Northern Italy, and while I have not had them, I’ve heard very good things. The fact is, though, that this is an easy to make (and drink) cocktail and shouldn’t require chasing down rare European bottles. Once you’ve had this, it will become a staple, I promise. So ease of ingredient acquisition is key.
The most American whiskey I can think of goes to the drink’s origins here. And believe it or not, it’s Pennsylvania, not Kentucky, where American whiskey (it was rye) was born. Opt for the rye over the bourbon to let some of those more fresh subtleties from the tomatoes and basil show through. I say mash your fresh ingredients with a mortar and pestle because they really give this drink life. (You want to see tomato seeds floating around in your glass.)
- 2 oz American rye whiskey (Wigle Craft Whiskey Pennsylvania Rye)
- 3/4oz lemon juice
- 3/4oz agave syrup
- 3 cherry tomatoes & 4 fresh basil leaves mashed or muddled
- Combine ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice, shake vigorously and pour into a rocks glass with ice. Garnish with one basil leaf.
Wigle Craft Whiskey—Pennsylvania Rye Whiskey
There were two men convicted of treason and sentenced to hang in the aftermath of the Whiskey Rebellion (1790) in the hills around Pittsburgh: John Mitchell and Philip Wigle. Though, both men were later pardoned by President Washington. While Kentucky is king these days, by the year 1808 the cities surrounding Allegheny County were producing a half barrel of whiskey for every man, woman and child in early America. Pot-distilled in Pittsburgh’s historic Strip District, this Wigle namesake whiskey is made with organic rye grains just like those used in the original American whiskey, the Monongahela Rye. Making all their spirits from local organic grains, rye in this particular case, along with a blend wheat and barley, the folks at Wigle hope to bring us back to those rye whiskies of yesteryear. The two years in barrel has added an electric amber hue, and results in a whiskey with ample aromas of citrus peel, white flowers and herbs. The palate is loaded with complexity, flavors of cinnamon, caramel and a spiced finish. While I’m a huge whiskey cocktail fan, this one is a superb sipper.
$45 (750ml); wiglewhiskey.com