The Beauty Beneath

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Try this.” The wine rep looked determined. The wine salespeople in town usually know better than to waste their time with me, as I have little-to-no influence on the wine list. If it’s a distilled product you’re trying to push then I’m the man behind the bar to talk to. Otherwise, you’ll probably want to save your breath.

“It’s an Italian aperitivo and I think you’ll really like it.” She was aware of my fondness for Negronis and such and was certain I’d take a liking to the bottle of Vergano Americano she was presenting to me. Reminiscent of the drink of the same name, this Americano was a special type of Italian aperitif referred to as a chinato.

Chinati are Italian fortified wines, similar to vermouth. Originally solely flavored with quinine, they took on a life of their own sometime around the late 19th century and came to be infused with various herbs and other flavors. There is most certainly orange peel and possibly caramelized sugar in this product.

Substitutions

Chinati are pretty rare finds in this country. If you can’t find Americano, try talking to the importer, or experiment with other fortified wines – Dubonnet rouge might make for an interesting choice, as would Lillet rouge.

I had to have this bottle, but living in a small town sometimes means that the more esoteric liquors on the shelf don’t move as quickly as I’d like them to. Since I was afraid to buy a case and have it sit behind the bar waiting for me to hand-sell each individual glass, I figured it was time for a cocktail.

After several rounds of base liquors and bitters selections, it was time to try it out on the unsuspecting. “It’s quite strong, but really pretty right below the surface,” was the first comment I received.

So, voila:

If you can find the Fee Brothers’ Whiskey Barrel Aged bitters, grab ’em. Unfortunately, my only bottle was in service when I stopped by the bar to pick up supplies for the photoshoot.

 

The Beauty Beneath Print Me

  • 2 oz/60 ml Appleton Estate Signature Blend rum
  • 1 oz/30 ml Vergano 'Americano' chinato
  • ½ oz/15 ml Cointreau
  • 1 dash Fee Brothers' Old-Fashioned bitters
  1. Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass.
  2. Stir with ice until chilled.
  3. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
  4. Express the oils from an orange twist over the surface of the drink and drop the spent twist into the drink.

Recipe printed courtesy of jeffreymorgenthaler.com

27 Replies to “The Beauty Beneath”

  • Chris says:

    This sounds pretty fantastic, I’m going to have to find some of this stuff.

    Just wondering, how do you think a Pisco would do in place of/alongside the rum in this?

    Cheers!

  • Yum!

    I really like Chinati! Fantastic label on the Vergano, too. Someone was recently telling me they also make a very tasty white chinato which might make a pretty good Kina Lillet substitute.

    Are they trying to widen their distribution? I picked up a bottle at LeNell’s about half a year ago, but have yet to see it in California. It would be great not to have to ship it from the East Coast after I run out.

    I have to admit, after trying a couple of the Italian Americanos, Lillet and Dubonnet seem pretty pedestrian.

  • Chris – I would recommend using an aged pisco if you’re going to try this. And remember that if it doesn’t have an age statement on the label, the color of the liquid in the bottle is usually a pretty good indicator.

    Erik – I don’t know if they’re trying to widen their distribution, I’ll ask the rep the next time I see her. And I agree, Lillet and Dubonnet do seem pretty pedestrian after a sampling of chinati.

  • RL says:

    Brilliant colour. That barrel-aged bitters is nice too – I like the cinnamon-y aroma of it. Doubt there’s any chinati floating about New Zealand though.

  • Marleigh says:

    I still have very serious feelings for my bottle of Carpano Antica, but I’ll have to keep my eyes open for this one…

  • RL – It’s worth a look online if you can get it shipped.

    Marleigh – Think of it as vermouth with a kick. Don’t get rid of that Antica Formula any time soon.

  • Matthew says:

    I have a Cocchi Barolo Chinato that I have yet to open, as I assume this stuff last about as long as vermouth, so I’m waiting until my current bottle of Carpano runs out. But I’ve heard very good things about it, and I’ll definitely use this recipe as a jumping off point, so thanks!

    Have you tried it in place of vermouth in any more conventional recipes, or perhaps in place of punt e mes?

  • FYI, Matthew…

    Cocchi Barolo Chinato is a wonderful digestiv and an interesting mixer. Supposedly it is a fantastic accompaniment to dark chocolate.

    However, it has very little to do with Sweet Vermouth.

    First, it is made on a red wine base and Sweet Vermouth is made on a white wine base.

    Second, the primary bittering agent is quinine, instead of the wormwood used in vermouth.

    Third, it is a lot more bitter than any sweet vermouth, including Punt e Mes.

    It is closer to a red wine based version of Campari. Well, not quite that bitter, but close.

    Lovely stuff. Just don’t expect a Manhattan made with it to taste anything like a Manhattan made with Vermouth.

    If you like negronis: 3/4 oz barolo chinato, 3/4 oz Cointreau, and 1 1/2 oz London Dry Gin is quite lovely.

  • Matthew says:

    erik,

    thanks for the recipe, I will definitely be trying that.

    I figured it wasn’t a literal match-up with vermouth, but it’s interesting that it compares more to campari, especially since I love campari.

    I assume still that it will have approximately the same shelf life that vermouth has after opening though. Is this correct, or can I open without fear of decreasing quality?

  • By the way, the recipe above based on an old recipe called the “Cota Cocktail”, not really an original. The original recipe calls for a defunct aromatized wine product called “Hercules” and I was experimenting with substituting barolo chinato for the Hercules. Tasty, if not entirely accurate.

    Yeah, Barolo Chinato probably has about the same life after opening as sweet vermouth. Though, it’s so tasty, I have a hard time keeping it around long enough for it to go off.

  • Garretto says:

    Wow, that really looks good!
    Hey, Jeff, I’m new to the website and love it, trying to catch up on the archived recipes and articles.
    I have a question regarding Maraschino liqueurs —- I’m trying to stock my home bar –I want to purchase a cherry liqueur to try an Aviation cocktail, however the ticket on the Luxardo and Maska are a bit steep. Is a less expensive Cherry liqueur such as Kijafa, going to really compromise the drink? My guess is yes, but I’ve spent a fortune in this stocking venture and looking for something to hole me over in the Cherry dept.
    Thanks.

  • NW says:

    DAMMIT! I thought I would be the first to get going with this bottle. Well, here is the Digestif I am rolling out this week.

    The Foil:
    1 oz. Krogstad Aquivit
    1 oz. Vergano Americano Chinato

    Stir gently over ice and strain.

  • All – I’ve found that the Americano doesn’t oxidize too quickly if corked and stored in a refrigerator.

    Garretto – See this post for more info about maraschino. Cherry liqueurs won’t taste the same as liqueur made from Maraska cherries.

    Neyah – Great recipe, I’m going to try this when I get to work tonight. And I am glad I could beat you to the punch at least once!

  • Uh, dudes, you really should read my blog and maybe eGullet…

    NYC in February

    I’ve been pretty pleased with the Vergano Americano in recipes which call for Hercules.

  • Erik – You have a blog??

    Just kidding.

  • Since that is Mr. White commenting above, I guess that is good news for me finding Vergano products in California!

    Excellent!

    Though, where the heck do you find the Krogstad Aquavit down here?

  • Mike says:

    Just got back from Germany, and China Martini is widely available. Too bad they can’t get some distribution in the US for that product since they already have such a big presence here with their sweet and dry vermouths.

    -Mike

  • Jeff Frane says:

    As per usual, paying any attention at all to Morgenthaler ends up costing me money. Pastaworks, here in Portland, is the best bet for finding anything Italian in a bottle, and sure enough they had the Americano. Ouch. $40 is a lot, but they had a smaller bottle (500 ml?) of a different product from the same vintner and it was $50, so I guess I got a bargain.

    I don’t have the right rum in the house, so I’ll try Erik’s take on the Negroni to start with.

  • Jeff Frane says:

    Years ago, after being accused of being “beersnobs” a bunch of beersnobs came up with an ironic system of defining quality, absent all the effete nuances. We started with S and G (I’ll let y’all fill in the blanks) and then determined that a little more nuance was needed. So we added F, as in “that’s F G!”

    The Americano is fascinating stuff, and Erik’s NotANegroni definitely is FG.

  • niels says:

    wonderful cocktail! don’t have the americano, but have tried it twice with substitutes: schiavenza’s barolo chinato, which is simply immense, can’t recommend it enough – and in a lighter version that worked almost as well, with the st r├Ąphael rouge. used the bitter truth jerry thomas decanter bitter for the 2nd one to match the r├Ąphael better.

    in mho the lillet rouge wont do in this drink – its far to ‘wine-ish’, too little ‘quinine-ish’. the dubonnet rouge wont do either, its too sweet, although frankly i dont know the american version which is supposed to be different from our european, i believe they produce in kentucky?

    finally, from a newcommer, thnx for a great site!! always an inspiration here in copenhagen.

  • Jeff Frane says:

    Just finished another one of these, made with the Methusalem and the whiskey-barrel aged bitters. Now I must find something to keep myself busy with so I won’t make another.

    This is a beautiful and delicious cocktail, Jeffrey. And I think I’m finally starting to get rum.

  • Thanks, Jeff. I’m glad you’re enjoying the drink.

  • Psst…

    Use the Vergano Americano in cocktails which call for Dubonnet Rouge.

    Rocks!

  • Joe M says:

    Anyone know if I can find Barolo Chinato in SF CA?

  • Joe, That I know of, both K&L and Plump Jack often carry the Cocchi Barolo Chinato.

  • terry says:

    Hi Jeff,
    Thanks for all the good info on your website.
    I just recently tried the Americano at a hotel up in Yountville, Ca. I purchased a bottle and my daughter and I finished it off pretty quickly.
    It has such a unique flavor.. I wish I could get it locally instead of from New York…(I think that’s where I got it)..It is my new favorite.
    I’m going to try some of your receipes.

    If you have any other suggestions for Chintos that you think are fabulous, let me know..

    I do like the sweeter flavors…

    Ciao,
    Terry

  • terry says:

    omg.. i just noticed no one has written on here since ’09.. I hope you get this…

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