Country Garden Bitter Sorbet – a cool twist on a Negroni
Is it Negroni o’clock where you are? I’m back in Dubai and although happy to be home, the pale skies and the steamy temperatures are a stark contrast to beautiful English countryside, dramatic clouds and a fresh breeze. I was pounding the pavements last night with Hazel panting beside me (my Border Terrier in case you’re wondering) with headphones in ears listening to the BBC Radio 4 Food Programme podcast. Diana Henry‘s very lyrical Irish tones were lulling me into a reverie about the rise of the l’aperitif or l’aperitivo trend in the UK. She looked back to her first taste at the age of fifteen on an exchange in France. The words Lillet, Suze and Dubbonet were incredibly exotic. Like me, she was brought up in a time when alcohol was advertised on TV with little regulation and thought the life that the Martini and Cinzano ads portrayed was just real life as a grown up. Turns out we were both impossible day dreamers then. Hands up anyone else who can sing along to ‘any time, any place, anywhere, there’s a wonderful world you can share‘.
Diana lays down two rules for the perfect l’aperitif – nothing too strong and nothing too sweet. To get the taste buds in peak anticipation, Professor Charles Spence recommends the classic combination of something sour or citrus, some carbonation (i.e. bubbles) and something aromatic to stimulate the appetite.
My three very favourite aperitif are a gin and tonic (no surprise there), a French 75 (gin, Champagne, lemon juice and sugar) and a Negroni, which just happens to be ultra-fashionable right now and deliciously bitter.
So coming back to the house at dusk, rather warm and a bit peckish, after being seduced for half an hour about the allure of pre-dinner cocktails you can guess what I was craving. Denzel’s special cocktail recipe for August fitted the bill as it’s a twist on the Negroni but slightly more elaborate.
Denzel Heath (of the MMI Bar Academy) uses Bloom gin here as it’s infused with botanicals such as chamomile, honeysuckle and pomelo capturing the essence of a country garden. Created by head distiller, Joanne Moore (still one of the few female master distillers in the world) soda is recommended as a partner for Bloom gin to set off the light, feminine flavours. The juniper is still an important element and in a gin and tonic Bloom suggests a strawberry as a garnish. St Germain is liqueur flavoured with elderflowers and is simply divine. Lillet is a refreshing citrus flavoured fortified wine which is lovely on its own over ice as an aperitif. If you really can’t find it try some bianco vermouth (sweet white) and maybe add a touch of Cointreau and Angostura orange bitters.
Country Garden Bitter Sorbet
- 30ml Bloom gin (or your gin of choice)
- 30ml Campari (Aperol will also do)
- 30ml Lillet Blanc
- 30ml strawberry purée*
- 60ml St Germain
- 30ml fresh pineapple juice
- 30ml egg white
- Sprinkles (optional)
- Cocktail shaker
- Old fashioned glass or something more frivolous (like an ice cream container)
How to mix
- Add the Bloom gin, Campari, Lillet and strawberry purée into a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake vigorously until completely chilled. Strain the chilled liquid out of the shaker into an old-fashioned glass over fresh ice (discard the used ice from the shaker and wash it up).
- Make some St Germaine Foam: Fill a clean cocktail shaker with 60ml of St Germaine, 30ml of egg white and 30ml of pineapple juice. First shake these ingredients thoroughly without ice (this is known as a dry shake and is used to agitate the liquid and proteins). Add ice to the mixture and shake for a second time.
- Strain 30ml of the foam on top of the ‘negroni mix (use the rest for another cocktail).
*Strawberry puree is simply 4 parts fresh, hulled strawberries with 1 part caster sugar blitzed in a blender until very smooth. You’ll probably find it easier to make a larger amount than needed in the recipe.
While this is probably involves a few more processes than your usual homemade cocktail, just imagine serving it at a summer garden party with some summery nibbly things. Divine.
Emiko Davies explains more about Italian aperitivi here and find out why I adore Diana Henry’s writing here.
What’s your favourite l’aperitif or l’aperitivo?