Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Celebrate National Martini Day: Cheers to a Classic Cocktail & New Twist with Nolet's Silver Gin Rose Gimlet Raindrop Cake!

Nolet's Silver Gin Rose Gimlet Raindrop Cake®: photo courtesy of Nolet's

Cheers to National Martini Day. How could I not partake? A pure, simple, martini has been my favorite cocktail for many a cocktail hour…

In my upcoming book, Finishing Touches: The Art of Garnishing The Cocktail, I included my Duchess Martini. It’s my pleasure to share the classic recipe with you. And the ideal food pairing: oysters.

Anyone who knows me knows my signature drink has been the pure, elegant, straight up martini; a preference I apparently share with Humphrey Bogart, FDR, Clark Gable, and of course, James Bond. (Where are the ladies?)

I drink a vodka martini; for reasons inexplicable, I feel vodka should be potato -- perhaps it’s my father’s Czech heritage or my respect for LiV, the Long Island distillery I discovered working and writing for my book, The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook.

LiV is the first distillery on Long Island since the 1800s; a small batch, crafted spirit that is an example of what can be found in most every locale and region, reflecting a tasty sense of place: a terroir wrought by the soil, water, and distillation.


I keep the potato vodka in the freezer, along with the martini glass, and the Dolin Blanc Vermouth in the refrigerator. Cold is key to the crisp, refreshing flavor of the Duchess martini. Dolin vermouth is preferred because the variety and quality of the botanicals is extraordinarily fresh, flavorful, and smooth. There simply is no substitute. One does not want a sweet or bitter vermouth.

If drinking a gin martini with the gin being very botanical by its character, you can use the Dolin Dry Vermouth.

There is a symphony of martinis that have contributed to this cocktail’s classic status: Dry, Perfect, and Dirty.


My shorthand to make the Duchess Martini is to pour Dolin Blanc vermouth into the frozen martini glass - ⅔ full, swish around to “coat” the sides, and then pour ⅓ vodka.

One can also mix the vodka -- or gin - and vermouth in a cocktail shaker - strain and pour into a frozen martini glass.


Lemon peel, lemon twist as curling ribbon. Those who also adore martinis garnish with the classic Olive. Many enjoy a “dirty martini” adds a splash of olive brine along with the olive garnish. There was a time when I enjoyed a Gibson martini and it’s cocktail, pearl onion garnish. The briny onion pickled in turmeric offers a savory, umami note of flavor.

Food Pairings

Almonds -- good-for-you-healthy, nuts. There are endless varieties of almonds, from straight-away salted or unsalted, to my favorite: salted and roasted Spanish marcona almonds.
Related image
Image: Courtesy of Getty 
Oysters on the half shell are the sigh-worthy, local food complement to a good martini. The salty, briny, crisp medley of bivalve tastes mates well with the martini. It’s a classic pairing - especially because both share local waters -- and that brings the terroir “sense of place” taste to resonate. In fact, there are only five species of oysters in the US - the endless varieties offer differences in taste that comes from their local waters. Few food convey a sense of place or “merroir” quite like the oyster. My favorite oysters come from Long Island’s Peconic Bay - Peconic PearlsⓇ, Malpeque, and Kumamotos, the Garden State’s Cape May Salts, and Barnegat Bay, Forty North, and almost all from Rhode Island.

Local, seasonal oysters, presented on a silver or glass platter with an ice and rock salt base is a sensual, visual seduction. For a cleaner look, there are also special serving platters that can be cooled enough to keep the oysters cold; no ice needed.

Enjoy the oysters with a purist’s sense: a fresh squeeze of lemon. It marries up to the martini lemon garnish, as well.

Serve the oysters with a light mignonette sauce - it complements - not overwhelms the oyster experience. Don’t mask the taste of the pristine oysters (that red sauce is a “no”).

The purity of the martini matched with the purity of the oysters is unparalleled elegance.

Mignonette Sauce

  • 1/2 cup minced shallots (about 2 1/2 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/8 teaspoon of sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon of local sea salt
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon of finely crushed white peppercorns (more flavorful than a pre-ground or powdered white pepper)
* A cucumber, ginger, cilantro or citrus mignonette recipe are tasty options, too


Peel and coarsely chop the shallots. You can put them into a food processor and pulse a few times, until the shallots are finely minced.

Place the minced shallots and any liquid released from them in a glass bowl. Add the white wine vinegar, and sugar and salt. Stir. Add freshly crushed white pepper. Stir. Let stand for 30 minutes or more to allow the flavors to fuse.

Serve cold in a small glass creamer pitcher to allow guests to either pour directly onto the elegant or provide a small cocktail spoon to get the sauce onto the “self-serve” oysters from a decorative ramekin. Guests can pick up the glamorous oysters and slurp the salty oyster meat while recounting the history of the half shell along with the mollusk as an aphrodisiac (psst - it’s true, oysters trigger sex hormones, especially spring harvests).

Another terrific martini recipe served up by NOLET -- NOLET’S Rose Gimlet Raindrop Cake®
is a whimsical, extraordinary cocktail couture.

NOLET’s Rose Gimlet Raindrop Cake®, is a perfect twist on a typical martini!
The creators of the popular Raindrop Cake have created the first-ever booze infused version of the cake, made with a NOLET’S Silver Gin martini in mind. So, instead of drinking a martini, try making the NOLET’S Rose Gimlet Raindrop Cake® to celebrate the holiday.

NOLET’S Rose Gimlet Raindrop Cake®

  • 1/4 cup NOLET’S Silver Gin
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • 3/4 teaspoon agar
  • 1/8 cup granulated sugar
  • 75ml Rose Extract
  • Small edible rose petals
  • Small dome silicone mold


1. Boil water in small pot

2. Sprinkle in agar and stir until completely dissolved

3. Add granulated sugar stir until dissolved

4. Add Rose extract and stir

5. Remove pot from heat and let cool for 10 mins

6. Pour mixture into mold

7. Place rose petals

8. Chill and set for at least 2 hours

9. Un-mold, serve and enjoy!


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Negroni Week Celebrated The Classic Cocktail with New Drink Recipes, Food Pairings, and Charity, especially Campari Community Service. Cheers!

Celebrate the Negroni 
Turns out that the classic cocktail: the Negroni - an iconic blend of equal parts Campari, gin and sweet vermouth - not only mixes up a refreshing drink but also mixes business with pleasure. And food.

Negroni Week kicked off last Monday in a big way - lots of Negroni drink stations, pizza made with Campari, coffee brewed with Negroni, music, and more. But then, this is a big deal.

Negroni Week is a toast to a week-long global charity initiative with more than 3,000 bars, restaurants and retailers around the world who joined to celebrate the classic cocktail and to raise money and awareness for more than a few charitable causes. This insures that the venerable Negroni endures well past its celebratory week in the spotlight.

In fact, every week can be considered Negroni Week.

Campari®, Italy’s iconic red aperitivo, has joined forces with Imbibe Magazine for the sixth annual Negroni Week.

Every year since 2012, Campari and Imbibe Magazine, have ahem, “raised the bar” for this initiative.

Not only in terms of the caliber of the party events and the complexity and the coordination but also with regard to the items up for the bidding; creative and compelling, indeed. Take a look at the list of brands eager to “mix” with Campari and Imbibe to mark the Negroni fete.

Luxury Negroni Sbagliato from Fine & Rare
A luxury Negroni Sbagliato made with NOLET’S Reserve Gin ($700), Campari and Armand de Brignac Brut Rose, served over a gold flaked ice cube and topped with orange bitters and zest. Ooh, la, la! This over-the-top cocktail retailed for $1,250, with $1,000 of that being donated to Children of Restaurant Employees.
Luxury Negroni Sbagliato from Find & Rare: photo courtesy Campari 
Lavender Berry Negroni from Gelso & Grand
A sweet treat twist on the classic Negroni, the Lavender Berry Negroni is inspired by Gelso & Grand’s cannoli. The cocktail is made with Lavender and Berry infused rum, Campari and sweet vermouth, and topped with a slice of funfetti cake and a rock candy stirrer. How festive is this?! I think this is kind of the perfect treat to celebrate Negroni Week and Imbibe Magazine’s six-year anniversary -- because Candy is the traditional sixth anniversary gift.

Celebrate Six Year Anniversary with Candy! Lavender Berry Negroni, Gelso & Grand: photo courtesy of Campari 

Negroncini from Arancini Bros.
A riff on the classic Arancini, (my be-still-my-heart/hands-down most favorite arancini -- all so fresh, handmade and that gooey cheese...) the Negronicini is made with risotto infused with gin, vermouth and Campari, stuffed with Mortadella, pistachio & fontina
Italian Duo - Negroncini from Arancini Bros.: photo courtesy Campari

Negroni Mille Crepes Cake from Lady M
A delicious crepe cake infused with the bittersweet flavor of a classic Negroni.
Sweet Celebration of the Negroni with Negroni Mille Crepe Cake from Lady M: photo courtesy Campari

The Negroni Flight from The Flatiron Room
Negroni Flight from the Flat Iron Room: photo courtesy Campari 
A three-part Negroni flight ($75) that will gradually take you from least to most bitter, each perfectly paired with premium bites. The flight consists on (in order):
  • Sparkling Negroni: Gin, Campari, Sweet Vermouth paired with cucumber and Ikura (Salmon Roe Caviar).
  • Smoking Boulevardier paired with Turkey meatball marinated w/ bourbon BBQ sauce and topped with ricotta cheese
  • CogneNegroni: Cognac, Campari, Lillet Blanc, Orange Juice paired with chocolate truffle covered with cocoa and green tea powder, topped with grated orange peel
With love for the classic cocktail growing every year, so has its namesake annual philanthropic movement – and Negroni Week 2018 had to have been biggest to date. Starting with just 100 participating bars in 2013, last year’s Negroni Week welcomed the involvement of 7,770 partners in 60 countries to raise a phenomenal $1.5 million for charitable causes since the initiative’s launch.

I’ll drink to that!

But first - a little history about our beloved Negroni. Every great cocktail has a tall tale behind it and the Negroni has more than its fair share. According to Campari, the story goes like this:

“It was around the year 1919 in Florence when Count Camillo Negroni contemplated ordering an Americano cocktail but decided it was time for a change. He requested it with a touch of gin instead of soda, inspired by his last trip to London and its prevalent gin scene. The bartender was pleased to honor Count Camillo Negroni’s request and added an orange garnish rather than the lemon wedge of the Americano to signify the new drink he had created. In Florence, the Count’s ‘usual’ became known as Count Negroni’s Americano, or the “Americano with a touch of gin,” but whatever it was referred to as back then, the Negroni was born. The Negroni is now one of the most famous contemporary classic cocktails. Anywhere you go in the world, you will find a mixologist who can make you the iconic Negroni. The original recipe, the perfectly balanced combination of equal parts of Campari, Red Vermouth and London Dry gin, is almost a century old and continues to be enjoyed today. The International Bartenders Association (IBA) lists Campari as an official ingredient of the Negroni, and thus, there is no Negroni without Campari!”

But as a cocktail aficionado, maybe you already knew this. Negronis are a classic cocktail yet are entirely contemporary, especially as the drink lends itself to being modified, updated, and customized. In fact, updated and customized is the Negroni’s iconic backstory.

On the other hand, maybe you didn’t know this- as I reported on Negroni Week in 2016 for my Examiner column:

“According to cocktail history, and Gary Regan, who authored The Negroni: Drinking to La Dolce Vita, with Recipes & Lore: the Negroni can trace its beginnings back to Florence in 1919 where the cocktail was born when an Italian bartender Lucca Picchi, head bartender at Caffe Rivoire, responded to a customer's demand for more spirited spirits in his Americano cocktail (which is a blend of Campari, sweet vermouth, and club soda). The guest patron, Count Camillo Negroni, who while working at a very unlike count job in the American West - as a rodeo clown - had acquired a taste for strong spirits. So the bartender added gin in place of the club soda water and dubbed the creation Negroni in honor of Count Negroni.

It’s no secret that Italians have long loved their Campari. This Examiner too - who loves it straight on the rocks with a twist especially as a cool, aperitif summer refresher.

But what most folks don’t know is that the Campari red initially got its color from beetles or crickets! Yes, indeed - the carmine red color came from the cochineal insect. (And you thought eating crickets was a new fangled creation.)

Campari was invented in 1868. Sadly, they stopped using the carmine insect dye in 2006. But the red color and the herb recipe including citrus and Cascarilla - a tincture from the croton plant (used as a stimulant and fever reducer), remains and is used in vermouths, too. So you see, the Negroni’s ingredients all are in the same taste cohort: Campari’s herbs and gin’s herb-packed ingredients, along with the complementary herb and bitters of vermouth - is keeping it in the family of flavors.”

Love the Campari story.

Some of the more divine Negroni shape-shifting/avatar-like creations I sampled at the Negroni Week kickoff event are noteworthy, as is the predominance of women mixologist artists. (yeah!):

Beyond Tiki - Paradise Negroni - created by Felicia Chin-Braxton, Nitecap

Beyond Tiki - Paradise Negroni by Felicia Chin-Braxton, Nitecap: photo Leeann Lavin 
And this is one beeuutiful drink, too. Who doesn’t love floating edible orchids?

Or how about this charmer, I Bleed Negroni - created by Anne-Louise Marquis?

Add caption

 With this drink’s love of raspberry, it was a pretty and delicious presentation. Try this at your next cocktail party.

The finishing touches garnish is a sexy tablescape accessory.

Tattoos add to the cocktail caper.

You can do your own version of a temporary tattoo for your next party. They are available from a variety of sources from Walmart to Oriental Trading. I have an Independence Day assortment for our big fireworks party to up the fun factor!

But this Negroni Week creation by Stacey Swenson, Dante NYC could be my go-to Hospitality Drink at our Independence Day party.

The reason is in large part, because of the inclusion of fresh herbs: basil and fennel -- and especially Stacey’s keen garden-to-glass mixology acumen and prowess to “spank” her basil finishing touches garnish; but also the Prosecco and watermelon ingredients are a refreshing companion to the Campari and Cinzano vermouth. This tasted like a refreshing, “more, please.”  Stacey is truly a "Campari Cutie!"

Clearly, the night belonged to that red, Campari perspective…

There were plenty of Negroni-inspired food creations too. What’s better than homemade pizza?

Umm, This!

A double down of favorites is the Umbria coffee for sale (I got my pound of Joe) inspired by Campari - and the Negroni-infused brew. Wow. That was very tasty - and the brewing contraption was so intriguing -- something out of Harry Potter or Arabian Nights.

Back to this year’s expansive charity initiatives that can only make you love Negroni even more. The partners and the support clearly deserve the shout-out and love…
Celebrate Negroni Week every week
Charity Outreach
To amplify the program’s charitable roots, Campari worked in partnership with the USBG National Charity Foundation (USBG Foundation) to host its first-ever Campari Community Service Day. On June 5 in over twenty cities across the U.S., bartenders and Campari employees in their respective cities gathered for activities such as volunteering at local animal shelters, organizing beach clean ups and preparing and delivering meals to local charities, community groups and firehouses, feeding the people who are making a positive impact in their local communities.

“Year after year our partner Imbibe helps us grow the incredible celebration that is Negroni Week in an effort to support some truly outstanding causes,” said Melanie Batchelor, VP Marketing for Campari America. “Its evolution is proof positive that the community’s collective heart has only grown larger. With the addition of our ‘Campari Community Service Day,’ we have opened up a tangible outlet for the bartending industry to actively channel its enthusiasm beyond what they’re serving behind the bar. Negroni Week’s popularity is accelerating at an amazing pace, and we encourage all bars, retailers and restaurants to get involved!”

“We are so excited to kick off the sixth year of Negroni Week with Campari,” says Karen Foley, publisher of Imbibe. “Every year we are humbled by the generosity of the thousands of people who participate in Negroni Week around the world in this collective effort to support so many incredible charitable causes—it’s truly amazing.”

Renowned industry icon Tony Abou-Ganim will once again lead Team Negroni bike rides. This year’s rides will take bartenders and cycling enthusiasts through twelve markets and counting including San Francisco, New York, Washington D.C., and Chicago during Negroni Week to benefit the Helen David Relief Fund, a program of the USBG Foundation that assists women in the bar industry who are fighting breast cancer. To sign up and for further details visit www.crowdrise.com/TeamNegroni2018.

Tip your hat to Campari (and tip your mixologist too!)

In its continued effort to lead the cause-related charge and truly go a sip beyond, Campari will contribute $75,000 to the participating Negroni Week charities and Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, the largest wine and spirits distributor in North America, will contribute an additional $10,000 for a total of $85,000 going to Negroni Week causes. $10,000 will go toward matching the top contributing participant’s donation to its chosen charity, with the remaining funds being divided equally among all the other charities.

During Negroni Week, Imbibe will also donate a portion of subscription and merchandise sales to Mercy Corps and No Kid Hungry, as well as $5,000 to the Negroni Week charity chosen by one randomly selected participating venue.

The list of friends and partners who come together to support this event is clearly worth raising a glass to, including Altamarea Restaurant Group, Hilton Hotels, Freehand Hotels, Caffè Umbria, and Hedley & Bennett. All of Freehand’s hotel locations allowed guests to donate a portion of their room stay to Children of Restaurant Employees (and save 10%) during the month of June by using the code NEGRONIWEEK.

Caffè Umbria will be offering a special Negroni-inspired coffee that will be available at caffeumbria.com and at their cafes in Portland, Seattle, and Chicago, with $1 from the sale of each coffee bag benefiting No Kid Hungry. I purchased this coffee after tasting it at the NYC event held at Rag Trader -- it’s delicious. The coffee roaster noted the Negroni Week Blend “embodies the flavors of the classic Negroni cocktail -- bitter, sweet, herbaceous and citrusy.”

I also loved the Negroni-infused coffee! Now that’s a perky way to start the day. Just kidding…

Adding a touch of style to the Negroni Week offerings, Hedley & Bennett has created a limited-edition Negroni Week apron, also benefiting No Kid Hungry. The aprons are handmade with herringbone and feature an embroidered Negroni on the top pocket for those who wish to wear their love for the classic cocktail on their heart.

Campari and Imbibe celebrated the sixth year of Negroni Week with kickoff events in San Francisco and New York, all benefitting local charities. Campari also sponsored the eighth annual Negroni Social in Portland, Oregon, as well as a wrap event with Dante NYC on June 10 to close out another successful year of charitable giving.

Whew! Pick me up. I’ll have another Negroni, per favore. And grazie / prego for an exciting Negroni Week celebration.

Even my photo of “Go Beyond the Sip” mirror art was working double time -- I got a selfie too.

Negroni Paradise 
Friends, food, and Negronis = Bliss. Mix up a pitcher. Cheers!
Interior Designers: Julie Schuster & Toni Sabatino enjoying Negronis