The Tasting Team on their summer drink of choice
THE TASTING TEAM ON THEIR GO-TO SUMMER TIPPLE
A negroni isn’t really summer fare, it’s too boozy, too heavy. But last summer I discovered that my favourite cinema serves negonis as part of its standard offering, and I became addicted to heading into a cold cinema on the hottest of days, drinking this most wintery of drinks. It appeals to my contrary side. I don’t really care how the negroni is made, but my preference is for high (alcohol) strength gin and only a half-portion of vermouth, so that the sweetness is de-emphasised and the herbal notes come with some kick.
It was summer in Ravello, on Italy’s Amalfi Coast. The citrus groves were heavy in local Sfusato lemons. Dinner each night ended with a glass of the local, magical limoncello, a combo of lemon zest, simple syrup and alcoholic spirit that was so much more than a digestif. It was an elixir. Each summer I reach for a glass of limoncello. Its zesty, sweet, citrusy freshness brings back delicious memories. This year, I am going local. Manly Spirits Co. brings an Aussie twist – lemon myrtle and lemon aspen botanicals – to its Zesty Limoncello liqueur. It’s spicy, peppery and, over ice, it sings.
It’s going to be hot, real hot this holiday season, so I’m preparing myself with all manner of fizzy drinks to keep cool and refreshed. I’ve already spent my holiday money on Krug MV, 2008 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne (a fave blanc de blancs), Stefano Lubiana Grande Vintage 2011 and Ravensworth Riesling Ancestral, an excellent pét-nat. But let’s face it. Nothing quite says ‘cool down, chill out’ like an icy cold beer. My stash of Peroni Red is offset by the best non-alcoholic beer I’ve tasted to date, Heaps Normal Quiet XPA. Summer drinking sorted.
While there will always be cans of Peroni Red and grapefruit San Pellegrino in the fridge, I’m looking forward to a summer filled with seafood and saline whites. It will include oysters with Jerome Bretaudeau’s brilliant and minerally Muscadet Granite Clos des Perrierès. Every bit as good as good Chablis. Closer to home, Chalmers’ lip-smacking Bush Vine Inzolia and Unico Zelo’s River Sand Fiano are made from organically farmed vineyards and show how far we’ve come with both warm-climate viticulture and Italian varieties. I can’t wait to get stuck into these with some barbecued snapper and octopus!
In a former life, I spent summers squeezing crates of grapefruit into Campari for others, then for myself. An obsession with Italian Ferrari-red bitter drinks lingers, but I’ve extended to dry, gently fruity aromatised, bittered wines (vermouth, in other words), and particularly the local artisanal stuff. Maidenii, Regal Rogue and 78 Degrees come to mind, and I have a soft spot for Embla chef/co-owner Dave Verheul’s Saison bottlings. Properly, they’re served cold and neat in a wine glass, but forgive me, Dave, a dangerous slosh of Summer Flowers over ice with a wheel of Meyer lemon nails the mood.
For some reason, my only real contact with gin was in airport departure lounges (yes, it was the Qantas Chairman’s Lounge) or in-flight. But my addiction took hold with Four Pillars Rare Dry gin and Fever Tree Indian Tonic Water, a 50ml jigger, three blocks of ice, and a tall glass.
Tequila has the perfect vibe for summer heat and long sunshine days. I’m not too particular about which brand, as long as it’s decently made. For me, the pleasure in tequila is serving it with the array of fresh citrus that is abundant on our planet. Calamansi limes transport me to Hawaii, Meyer lemons to West Coast Canada, Valencia oranges to Spain ... a squeeze of lemonade fruit or finger lime and I’m at home again. Of course I couldn’t walk past a Tommy’s margarita either, even if I tried.
A controversial subject, but I’ve reached ‘peak gin’. I’ll still indulge in a classic martini or gimlet, but this summer, a daiquiri is what I’ll reach for. I’m also a strong advocate for riffing on classic cocktails – slipping rhum agricole into my daiquiri or whipping up a ti’ punch, the definition of boozy brevity in grassy rhum agricole, cane syrup and fresh lime. But my cocktail of the moment? The penicillin. Balanced, citrusy, complex and, by name alone, gives the impression I am going some way to curing my ills.
Much of the small volume of mead on the market is pretty insipid, typically made without distinct care or the flair that comes about from the wild fermentation of honey in water. Two Metre Tall’s Original Sparkling Mead is the antithesis and the answer. It’s made from honey harvested from Two Metre Tall’s Derwent Valley hives and left to mature in barrels for two years before release. It’s gently sweet, but way more about the savoury elements from yeast interplay, tangy, floral, acidic, wildly thirst-quenching; sour, yes, but in that pleasingly bitter way that resets the palate and readies you for the next gulp. In all this, it’s summer drinking personified.