James West

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Tag: vermouth


Venice is sinking. I know, because I’ve just come back from there and it’s awash with a million bottles of Aperol, which are slowly dragging the island city into the lagoon. I had my first Aperol Spritz at a bar in Campo San Barnaba, and it’s a good drink. You have to be careful to specify Prosecco rather than soda water or you get a slight disappointment (you can never be properly disappointed in Venice) but the spritz is a sweet refresher after a day on your feet, or a jolly aperitif before lunch.

Still, it’s a bit of a soft drink. For a more robust kick-start you should go with a Negroni, and the Negronis in Venice are excellent. It’s a simple recipe; equal measures of Campari, gin and vermouth rosso. Making them at home I’ve foolishly been mixing my Negronis in a shaker (stirring though, never shaking) and then pouring them into a glass. Clearly this is madness. In Venice everyone built the drink in its glass with satisfyingly large chunks of ice and maybe giving it a bit of a twirl with a straw before chucking in a good size strip of orange peel.

Back in Campo San Barnaba, at the Bar Ai Artisti the stir was definitely DIY and my first pull through the straw was a jolt of neat Campari. Once I’d sluiced it around the drink was excellent and sitting with Lucy sipping our drinks and nibbling from a bowl of crisps at the back of the bar was a great way to pass half an hour.

Enjoying a slurp of Negroni at Caffe Brasilia
Enjoying a slurp of Negroni at Caffe Brasilia

In central Venice, between the Rialto Bridge and Saint Marks we sought out Caffe Brasilia. It’s the local bar of Nathan Sutherland in Philip Gwynne Jones’ entertaining books which I’d been reading before we set off to Venice and which you could use as a guide book. The bar was on a corner of the narrow Rio Tera dei Assassini, and given its central location was quiet and modestly priced.

The best Negronis we had in Venice were in the tiny bar of The Hotel Olimpia, where we were staying. Strong, cold, oh so red and served with care and attention by waiters who doubled duty as porters and really deserved their tips.

We’d a great short break in Venice, and when I visited the Ferrovia I was reminded that the dangerously delicious Inamorata was inspired by the railway journey from London (gin) through Paris (Cointreau) and on to Venice (Prosecco). You’ve got to have an Aperol Spritz while you’re there, it’s the foundation of all bar life in the Venice at the moment. But don’t miss out on the Negroni.

Corpse Reviver no. 2

This weekend we stayed at Stow House, just by Aysgarth Falls in the Yorkshire Dales. We have history with the place, having been back several times since our wedding reception there in 2000.

In the last few years Stow House (built in the 1870s for Reverend Stow who was Rural Dean of Wensleydale and a keen photographer) has been brilliantly refurbished by Sarah and Phil Bucknall who aim to provide beautiful rooms, excellent service and punch-packing cocktails. On Saturday before we went out for dinner, Sarah made us one of those cocktails and it certainly lived up to the mission statement. Rather than offering a full cocktail menu, Sarah asks what you like as a base for your drink and then suggests something for you. We went with gin, and Sarah offered us the Corpse Reviver No. 2, adding that it was one of the drinks made by Harry Craddock at the Savoy, and recorded in his Savoy Cocktail Handbook.

The recipe requires equal measures of gin, lemon juice, Cointreau, and vermouth to be shaken with ice and strained into a glass that’s had a rinse of absinthe. Lots of the recipes online specify Kina Lillet – as used in James Bond’s Vesper – for the vermouth, but that’s not available now so I reckon you can use whatever you’ve got in the cabinet. If you’re short of absinthe I expect you could get away with using pastis for an anise flavoured rinse.

Sarah’s Corpse Revivers were delicious, with an orange-and-lemonyness not unlike Inamoratas. It’s a refreshing drink that we’ll definitely be mixing at home, but I’m not sure I’ve the strength of constitution to drink it as a hair-of-the-dog.

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