17 Dec 2015
Italians have had afternoon drinking down for hundreds of years. Legends. London took to this like a duck to water and is set on emulating their ways. Instead of drinking high octane prohibition style cocktails in excess, Italians sip away and keep the ABV low because what’s the hurry, really? It’s not just the Polpos and the flurry of aperitivo bars that are bringing a taste of the Italian life to London; Luxardo’s old school Italian products can spotted behind some of the best bars in town.
From the single surviving cherry sapling of an orchard set ablaze, 30,000 Marasca cherry trees of the Luxardo famiglia continue to grow and now give us ample amounts of what we love best. Every time you imbibe Maraschino or one of its succulent cherries, keep in mind that you’re a part of a long history of people who love life and value the aperitivo as an event that contributes to its beauty. So, after your next siesta or super arduous workday, slag off manic ‘happy hour’ in favour of an aperitivo: clink glasses to buona fortuna (good luck), and recharge your chilled batteries, Italian style.
Skiving off work and traveling to Italy isn’t always viable, but drinking Italian-inspired cocktails a tube ride away is and should be done. Here are a few of many bars in London who swear by Luxardo (the product and la famiglia) and make sure it’s locked and loaded on their speed rails:
Drink the Her Cocktail (Irish whiskey, dry vermouth, Amontillado sherry, Luxardo Maraschino)
This cocktail is impeccable with its herbal and cherry almond aromas and smoky, earthy finish. It’s touched tongues with Ireland, but if you descend Basement Sate’s seedy staircase, nab a corner booth and sip slowly whilst taking in the heady almond aroma, you’ll be in Italy under Marasca cherry trees in no time.
Drink the Mardis Gras Fizz (Bols Genever, Fino Sherry and Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur shaken with lime juice and topped up with Mercier champagne)
If New Orlean’s Mardi Gras were to be celebrated by a Brit in Italy during a balmy afternoon, Mardi Gras Fizz is what it would taste like. Just envision it on a bar counter flanked by palm fronds in Shoreditch and you’ll see what we’re on about. BarChick loves the counterbalance of the tingling and refreshing sensation of the champagne on our tongues followed by the warm and dry hit of the Sherry in our stomachs.
Drink the Pioneer (Irish whiskey, Lillet Rouge, Luxardo Sangue Morlacco)
This makeshift bar shoehorned into the back of a pub in Brixton has got a slight lean toward Italian-inspired cocktails. Hit the buzzer, enter the dimly lit box and let Chris Dennis sort you out with a rich, post-dinner, dark fruit-driven number. The light aroma of cherries from the Lillet Rouge followed by the rounded and sour finish of Luxardo’s Sangue Morlacco will spirit you away. Not quite a traditional aperitivo, but a nice modern blend of Ireland meets Italian.
Drink the Mary Pickford (Appleton VX, lime and pineapple sherbet, Luxardo Maraschino liqueur and pomegranate syrup)
This one is for those who fancy ritzing it up for the night in an ornate and palatial space. Make like a visiting foreign dignitary and acquaint yourself with this prohibition classic. The upfront almond aroma of the cherry liqueur and the slow seeping sweetness from the pineapple and pomegranate flavours make for a vibrant and retro profile that will have you feeling cheeky, sprightly and vaguely Italian.
Drink the Alfresco Hand-Shandy (Irish whiskey, cherry jam, lemon juice, fig balsamic, egg white, club soda, Luxardo Sangue Morlacco)
The team behind this institution is all about serving drinks in wellies, Chinese take-out boxes and tombstones, but that’s just the beginning; the whimsy is everywhere and you can expect to find a few Italian liqueurs making cameo appearances along the way. There’s nothing like al fresco vibes in a dimly-lit basement, so smack your lips for cherry jam laced with fig balsamic and take a deep inhale of the sour cherry aroma.
Drink the Popeye and Olive Oil (Belvedere vodka, Cocchi Americano vermouth, spinach and pine nut orgeat, lemon, sugar, egg white, olive oil, Luxardo Maraschino liqueur)
Callooh Callay is 3-in-1 type of bar with a reputation that precedes it. No need to peruse this time around though: the Popeye and Olive Oil is what you’re after. Grab a seat by the Narnia-esque wardrobe and sip on a gastronomical cocktail. Feeling sickly? This it what Popeye prescribes. The counterbalance of the vegetal flavours of the spinach and pine nut orgeat, the zestiness of the lemon, and the slight trace of cherry and almond from the Maraschino makes for one hearty vodka-based concoction. The egg white binds it all together and gives it that velvety consistency and savoury flavour that BarChick loves when she isn’t quite ready for an epic meal.
Drink The Camden (Half Hitch Gin, fresh orange juice, dry vermouth, sweet vermouth and a dash of Maraschino Liqueur)
Can’t find it? Keep looking as this bar’s in a converted Victorian Lavatory in Kentish Town. For real. You’ll be pleased to know that there’s no sign of any toilet-based gimmicks, instead there’s a beautiful wooden bar, antique mirrors, an old record player and retro speakers. If you’re into your geeky stuff they even have a 16-litre copper still behind the bar that’s churning out bespoke spirits all day. If you’re into Italian drinking this one’s for you: vermouth keeps it dry, there’s a hint of sweetness with the Maraschino and sweet vermouth and it’s lengthened with the fresh orange.
Drink the Manhattan Steel Corps. (Distilled Manhattan, Maraschino Liqueur, ‘dry essence’)
Look for the lantern dangling above a nondescript door and sidle up to what looks like a makeshift, yet very sleek and glossy, basement bar of some eatery in an Italian village where only family and close friends are allowed to booze and while away the hours. Sip the Manhattan Steel Corps slowly and let the subtle almond aromas of the Maraschino trickle through your nose. The overall dryness of the drink will leave you feeling level for whatever kind of night lies ahead.
Like Goose, a great wingman. Writes about the best bars in the world, wicked drinks, awesome food and good times. Always late. www.barchick.com