The Tasting Panel magazine

November 2015

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Page 7 of 136

november 2015  /  the tasting panel  /  7 Due to the frenzied lifestyle imposed by our modern society, few countries, mostly European, are still able to embrace the aperitif hour. Growing up in Italy in my parents' bars, I found that the aperitif hour was always a ritual that would mark two distinctive times of the day—pre- lunch time from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and pre-dinner, between 6 to 8 p.m., and up to 9 p.m. on the weekends. The French also enjoy this tradition that turns out to be more than just enjoying a drink, but is also a celebration of joie de vivre, a ritual embraced by the young (from 18 years old and up) and their elders. The aperitif is often enjoyed with a few salty/savory finger-bite snacks and the beverage choices are usually pastis, still and sparkling wines, along with Pineau des Charentes and vermouth-based cocktails. Recently, my dear good friend Mr. Michel Roux, one of the world's spirits industry mavens, introduced me to his new "labor of love," Absentroux, an exquisite herbal-wine specialty that is delicious on its own and exceptional as a modifier in cocktails or enjoyed in spritzers. Absentroux is produced in the town of Forcalquier, located in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, using ancestral maceration techniques to blend the allure of wormwood and other distinct botanicals. To your palate, it brings the essence of absinthe without the strong anise-liquorice flavors, and also imparts the softness of a wine without the high-proof spirit base. The first of its kind, this French aperitif showcases a radiant Mindaro green. At first, the olfactory experience reminded me of a nostalgic bouquet of Arôme de Marseilles, followed by a subtle fragrant zest composed of soothing lav- ender, lemon balm and verbena. The refreshing orange citrus laced with coriander and juniper berries is combined with a sophisticated herbal undertone of angelica, peppermint and fennel, finishing with the bitter notes of wormwood. The centuries-old infusion and maceration techniques are carried out at the Distilleries et Domaines de Provence. The so-called "extract," obtained using neutral alcohol, is then blended with three wines: Ugni Blanc, Clairette Blanche and Grenache Blanc, based on their organoleptic qualities. The finishing step is a proprietary fortification process to bind all ingredients and flavors together. Absentroux, bottled at 18% ABV (36 proof), is a perfect modifier in aperitif-style cocktails or enjoyed simply chilled and served in a Nick and Nora glass. Try it in a wine glass with a few ice cubes to make your favorite spritzer or as an alternative to vermouth in cocktails to benefit from its botani- cal and sophisticated lingering taste. Following the footsteps of the amaro trend, I am confident that aperitifs like Absentroux with their fragrant aroma, com- plex taste and low-proof strength are going to play a strong influence in pre-dinner cocktails and will be responsible for promoting a new drinking culture and ritual in America: the aperitif hour. Mon Ami Spritz by Francesco Lafranconi ◗ 1½ oz. Absentroux (French wine-based aperitif) ◗ 2 oz. Prosecco D.O.C. ◗ 2 oz. Fever-Tree Elderflower Tonic Water ◗ Grapefruit slice ◗ Sprig of thyme Build the drink over ice in a 14-ounce white wine glass. Stir and garnish with a slice of grapefruit and a sprig of thyme.

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