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Borrowing from that old saw, "If life gives you lemons, make lemonade," we say, "When the community board denies you a full liquor license, make aperitif cocktails."
We discovered a whole world of crafty and delightful drinks that are stronger and weirder than wine, perfect for creating cocktails or enjoying alone. Most are variations on a theme: a base of wine, fortified with grape spirits or brandy to reach 15-20% alcohol by volume and flavored with an array of complex and highly-guarded herbs, spices, fruits and aging regimes.
Some, such as sherries, are their own category of wine, with long-established rules governing grape varieties, region of production and classification. To find these beverages, wander to where your local liquor store keeps the bottles that seem to belong in your grandma's booze cupboard. Below are a few of our favorites and cocktail recipes to go with them.
1. Lillet Blanc
*To make your own simple syrup, take equal parts sugar and water, and simmer until the sugar is completely dissolved.
Muddle the torn basil, a slice of jalapeno, a squeeze of lime juice and the chunks of watermelon in the bottom of a mixing glass. Add the rest of the ingredients and cracked ice, shake well, and strain over ice into a tall Collins glass. Garnish with a basil leaf and slice of watermelon, or some pieces of pickled watermelon rind if you want to win the local mixologist competition.
2. Manzanilla sherry
Combine the first four ingredients in a mixing glass. Shake gently on ice (avoid diluting too much with long mixing). Fill a tall Collins glass with ice, sprinkle sea salt on the ice and strain the cocktail over it. Garnish with a grapefruit peel.
3. Cocchi Americano
Pour the first four ingredients (chilled) into a rocks glass, top with a splash of soda and the lemon twist. Enjoy the waves of refreshment.
4. Ransom Dry Vermouth
Stir on ice and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
5. Vergano Americano Chinato
Pour Vergano Americano over a glass of ice, and hit it with a splash of soda and an orange twist. Soak in the magic of controlled tinkering, an age-old tradition that we ought to toast to daily.
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