A Spritz in Your Summer Step

I’m going to be honest…I am an Aperol Spritz naysayer. I think it is a subpar drink that grew to popularity in a suspicious nature due to marketing blitzes and being Instagram-able. Sort of like the also dubious cake pop and Dalgona coffee. There are MUCH better ways to consume effervescent cocktails, cake, and coffee. Fortunately, this column has remedies for all of that but the cake. I haven’t figured out a rainbow chip caffeinated cocktail. YET. But I drink Monster drinks. I know things, so… Threat or promise, I make the call. But now! Live in the now! Now it is almost summer, ergo my time for a spritz. Much as I wish to wear my reversible black/purple velvet cape and swill heavy drinks whether in adverse climes or not, let’s face it: it’s spritz season. I had to give myself a challenge. Goths and Virgos (I’m both) are allergic to ease. I decided that my spritzes needed to get their effervescence from anything but the classic bubblifiers: sparkling wine and/or club soda/seltzer. I landed on ginger beer, tonic, ginger ale, and nitro cold brew as my bubblifiers. As for the boozy bases, I embraced tawny and vintage Port, coffee liqueur, vodka, and Marsala. I intend at least one of my creations to be the next gem of everyone, everywhere, especially my nitro cold brew riff on the popular again (yay!) Espresso martini. My gosh, you’re welcome. PLEASE make these. They bring summer to the dark and winter to the light. HOT BLONDE GINGER Tawny Port , what a joy. It gets all sorts of caramel and golden raisin goodness without being heavy. And it’s even better, in my humble opinion, lightened up with some bubbles and accented with some contrasting ingredients (lime juice) and some complimentary (ginger beer, walnut bitters). Also, the word “tawny” makes me think alternately of cats and hot blondes. I’m down to spend time with either. I used the Cockburn’s “Tawny Eyes”, from a line downright created to be cocktail friendly. Tasting notes on the Port solo? Caramel, hazelnuts, blackberry jam and redcurrants. And a hint of cola? Yes, that too. The tannins are velvety but gripping, although you’re unlikely to pick that up in a cocktail. That said, it is tasty solo, too. Make sure it has a bit of a chill. Ingredients: -2 oz Cockburn’s Tawny Eyes Port -1/3 oz lime juice - fresh is good, but, and I may encounter haters, the bottled key lime juice is what I prefer for this riff; it just has that je ne sais quoi -2 dashes Fee Bros. Black Walnut Bitters -Ginger beer to taste -Candied ginger to garnish Methodology: Put Port, lime juice, and bitters in a shaker with a few giant cubes and shake ferociously. Pour over a big cube in a rocks glass, top with ginger beer to taste (how much depends on how gingery you want it) and garnish with a toothpick bit of candied ginger. BOUGIE PRACTICALITY I love a Negroni Sbagliato with whatever bubbles I have on hand, which, one night, was ginger ale. I gave it a whirl, and not only was it convenient for when I didn’t want to go out and get a bottle of bubbles, but moreover, it was f*@king delicious. And then I contemplated Port instead of sweet vermouth. Ummm, I felt a little like I was committing Porticide. I used a luscious vintage Port in the cocktail. It was fantastic by itself, so pour a glass to sip while you mix. Like when you sip the wine you are cooking with while cooking, drink the Port while mixing. I had the 2000 Ramos Pinto Vintage Port, and it vibrates with rich, stewed fruit (blackberry and red currant), but there is also an earthiness, with some coffee and toffee. Excellent on its own, excellent as a luxe addition to a Negroni of any sort. Ingredients: -1 oz Campari -1 oz Vintage Port -Ginger ale to top -Orange peel to garnish Methodology: Stir the Campari and sweet vermouth over ice for a hot minute, then strain into a white wine glass. Top with ginger ale to taste. Twist the orange peel over the top, run it around the glass rim, then either drop it in or hook it over the edge…you do you, boo. NITRO ESPRESSO MARTINI Could I make a summer-forward espresso martini? Of course. I can do anything I put my mind to. Well, except for recovering from my last relationship, but I have a therapist for that. But for less existential qualms, such as how to upgrade the espresso martini for summer, I did have a bottle of vodka. And a can or so of nitro cold brew. And with some experimentation, I created your MUST-MAKE cocktail of 2023. Ingredients: -1 ½ coffee liqueur ( Mr. Black and Conker are my faves, but if you have Kahlúa , do what you must) -1 oz vodka -1/2 oz Frangelico -3 dashes orange bitters -1/4 oz simple syrup (I used a demerara one, but use anything to offset the bitter) -Can of nitro cold brew can (Starbucks and Rise are fun, but I’m willing to bet whatever your preference will be the best choice) Methodology: Shake everything but the nitro cold brew over ice. Strain into a rocks glass. Top with the nitro. Light up the night. WHO NEEDS GIN TONIC DELIGHT I’ll be fully transparent when this recipe was recommended to me, my initial reaction was a resounding meh. I have never had a penchant for Marsala (to be fair, I had scarcely tried it) nor tonic. But it’s like when a girlfriend decided to order oysters and milk at Musso & Franks because “it sounds bad”. Consequently, we had to go back frequently so she could get her new culinary fix. I wanted to say “nah” when this was suggested, but I’m both an actor and writer and have learned that listening is one of the most essential skills. Ergo, I am now downing the Marsala and tonic. The 2017 VecchioFlorio Dry Marsala Superiore DOC got me going back for more. It’s super nutty, filled with caramel and toasty almonds, dried currants and joy, garnished with friendly acidity buffering a brown sugar streusel sweetness. Oh, and the garnish is literally the cherry on the top. Ingredients: -2 oz Marsala -Tonic to top -Ice -Luxardo cherry to garnish Methodology: Pour the marsala over ice (preferably big), top with tonic, garnish with a cherry, overcome your expectations and open your mind. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Want to read more from Ellen? Check out her recent articles: Unexpected Blancs Tavel, Take Me Away Wine Women All Year Round Old World vs. New World: Tannat Ellen in Lalaland: Escape to Santa Monica Add Sugar to Your Heart You can also listen to Ellen's podcast , The Wine Situation here . Check out her recent transcripts of the Final Five questions: Wine Situation Final Five! Kate Ayres Wine Situation Final Five! Kristen Barnhisel

Conker Spirit

Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur

My new ride or die coffee chum which, you should know when it comes to actual coffee and coffee liqueurs was for a hot minute devoted to another. I’ll break it down: Kahlua is delicious and the sweetest. Mr. Black is robust. Conker falls somewhere between. Granted when it comes to cocktails if you know what you’re working with and what you want you can adjust for the bite and the sweet—but the pure coffee flavor—in love with Conkers — a year ago

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Adriano Ramos Pinto

Vintage Porto 2000

Stewed fruit, red and black. Earth. Coffee. Toffee. So bright whether or not given the vintage. Be careful with the cork. I should have used an ah-so and crumbled mine but gave it time to settle and all was well. — a year ago

Paul, Severn and 5 others liked this
Severn Goodwin

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I'm going to have a future pet named Peeve, because why not?


Tawny Eyes Port

Been blending up a storm with this. Solid it says caramel, hazelnut-storms and blackberry/red currant jam clear skies underneath a heady storm. I plugged into a cocktail. Much much a dance partner. — a year ago

Severn, Bob and 4 others liked this

Cantine Florio

Superiore Vecchioflorio Marsala 2017

Bent my mind which honestly, could use some yoga at least. Nuttiness is my fave tasting note but there’s Christmas and a cedar hope chest in there sluiced with some lemon zest. But my most honest review will always be my synesthesia between wine and clothes so here goes: Suede pant suit in burgundy and beige the top and bottom half of each. Bam. — a year ago

Paul, Peter and 7 others liked this