Add the Campari, Cynar and Fernet-Branca to a chilled mixing glass. Throw in a pinch of kosher salt and stir to dissolve. Add ice and stir until well chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Express the oils from the grapefruit twist over the drink and then discard.
Crisp. Bitter citrus, caramel, salt water on the nose. Smooth on the tongue, Bottecchia is light on the front end, followed by a blast of herbs, citrus, earth and raisins. The finish is fresh, minty and bitter with a salty taste that lingers on your tongue. This one is surprisingly lighter than you might expect given it’s ingredients. The color is also beautiful, dark and inky.
Bottecchia comes from Kevin Burke of Colt and Gray in Denver, Co.
I have to confess that I’ve had a love-hate relationship with Bottecchia for quite some time. On paper it sounded perfect, a mega substituted Negroni composed of 3 of my favorite ingredients: Cynar for vermouth (done that a few times before) and Fernet-Branca instead of gin…. you read right, instead of gin. Only Campari remained. Plus the addition of salt and a grapefruit twist? I mean come on, this thing sounded great.
To top it off I had made a very similar drink prior to this, Earthen Infusion, which had the 3 ingredients in Bottecchia as well as Bonal (basically a bitter earthy vermouth). I was a big fan of Earthen Infusion (in fact it drained most of my Bonal at the time). What could go wrong?
Eager to try it, I mixed up a Bottecchia and was shocked at how much I disliked it. How could you combine 3 things I love and have it taste like crap? I couldn’t believe it. Naturally, I thought there was something wrong with my taste buds. So I kept trying it, over and over and over again, during those times when you were in the mood for something “different.” No luck. Eventually, I got to the point where I found it tolerable at room temperature, but still wasn’t a fan of the chilled final product.
So what gives? Why am I posting a drink that I can’t stand? Well kids this is a perfect lesson in how your tastes evolve over time. I had left Bottecchia behind for some time and on a whim gave it another shot recently. Expecting to again be disappointed, I took a sip and damn if I didn’t love it! I couldn’t believe that I finally had come around to it.
Thinking back on it, it does make sense. I wasn’t a big fan of Campari, or Fernet, or even Gin at first. It takes time to develop a taste for certain things, and I’ll be the first to admit that some of my favorite drinks are definitely an acquired taste. Thing is once you get a taste for them, you crave them. Just ask any self-proclaimed Fernetophiles out there. Bottecchia was no different. The taste is just quite unique and a bit different and it takes some time to wrap your head (and tongue) around it. In the end, I’m really glad that I did.
Morale of the story: don’t write off cocktails or ingredients if at first you don’t love them. You might be surprised at what you develop a taste for down the line. I hope you’ll give Bottecchia a chance. I know I’ll be making many more of this one.
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