Yesterday was glorious, and I made all sorts of spring cleaning-y progress in the garden, including spreading some leftover compost on a few beds and doing some early planting. This year is a late one—some beds still have frozen soil—but for the most part it’s all workable and good to go. Last year’s parsnips are as sweet as bananas, especially with some of the homemade maple syrup; the last batch went a bit long on the stove and became a surpassingly splendid burnt caramel with many possible applications. I’ll have a post or two elaborating on that combination at some point soon.
Meantime, something very other: the Negroni. Equal parts gin, sweet vermouth (I used Carpano Antica Formula, named for the man who invented vermouth, which is quite lovely and utterly distinct from the bland factory versions most widely on offer; Atsby’s Amberthorn, made in New York, is another excellent choice) and Campari, it’s a luridly scarlet and bracingly acerbic cocktail that’s perfect for people who hate Sex and the City with an abiding passion. I referred to the Negroni on Facebook recently as being “bitter and yet oddly appetizing, like I am” and that about nails it. Now that it’s experientially and not just calendrically spring, ’tis the season for hunger-whetting pink drinks like Negronis and Provençal rosés. Vintage guilloché glasses from your grandfather’s collection are a plus.
I find bitterness to be the vastly neglected quintile of the gustatory spectrum. Properly deployed, bitter greens, herbs, and liquids can shine an astonishingly flattering light on other flavors, burnishing their subtle sweetnesses to a high shine and bringing forth the majesty of otherwise humble ingredients, especially when their provenance and freshness communicate the full gamut of their potential. It may sound counterintuitive, but those flavors wield great enhancing power and often carry medicinal properties as well; it’s worth remembering that gin, vermouth, and Campari all derive from medicinal tinctures.
A beautiful beverage that is arguably equally beneficial to you and your dinner. What’s not to like?