Salute from Italia
FIRST LOOK Â» We made Italian cocktails at a mixology masterclass with 22-year-old Adamo Balsamo, who is also a Hemingway fan
During the First World War and perhaps a little more transiently, between Italy leaving the Central Powers and joining the Allied forces, the spritzer was born. Austro-Hungarian soldiers in Italy found white wine "too alcoholic" and so, they began mixing sparkling water that added effervescence to their drinks. Such is the prelude to the story of the spritzer - we learn from Italian mixologist at CinCin, Adam Balsamo. We are here for a sneak peek into the three weekend masterclasses where he will be taking participants through the history and nuances of homemade infusions and spritzers, cocktail bitters and brunch cocktails, respectively.
Lessons on adding Italian magic to cocktails with bartender Adamo Balsamo. Pics/Shadab Khan
We drop by the Italian eatery for a teaser of the first masterclass scheduled this Sunday themed around spritzers and are taken through a bittersweet drink called the Aperol spritz. Mumbai's very own Sir Mixalot has the energy and passion of a quintessential "almost" 23-year-old, tweaking ingredients to add a bit of himself and owning it, too.
He also has the panache of a refined sommelier, backing every tweak with logic and knowledge. "This drink was formally recognised by the International Bar Association in 1970 as the spritz Veneziano," he tells us, while pouring a Patiala peg of Aperol, a variant of bitter - alcohol flavoured with bitter plant extracts. "It is used as an additive in cocktails because it helps build an appetite," he adds, while peeling out a long, twirly rind of orange and squeezing it all over the glass. "The oil from the orange settles on the glass exalting the flavour of the drink," he explains.
(Left) Chocolate martini; Mama Maria
We watch and listen intently as he adds a slice of orange, a quart of a popular Italian white wine, and tops the glass with sparkling water. He then garnishes the cocktail with a luscious olive, pierces a stick through it, delicately drops it into the drink and coquettishly winks at us, - "My little Italian touch," he says.
We proceed to the rosemary spritz made with fortified wine, which Balsamo has infused with homegrown rosemary to add both flavour and style. He drops a slice of pink grapefruit, tops the wine with more white wine and sparkling water, adds the olive again - retaining his signature touch - and adorns the glass with a stick of fresh rosemary and lemon rind. We take a sip of the heady and zingy cocktail and wish we weren't on antibiotics. "Take this away please," we say, not meaning it of course.
Balsamo's eyes light up when he talks about his grandmother Angela Maria, while showing us the ropes about Mama Maria, a bloody Mary with a twist named after his grandma and a part of the brunch cocktails menu. Made from vodka infused with Thai chillies for 25 days and then with pepperoncini, slow-cooked tomato sauce, lime juice, and a few drops of Worcestershire sauce, this version is unlike any we have tasted. "What is this salt?" we inquire. "It's celery salt that I made in the kitchen. I use it instead of sugar. Ernest Hemingway is my favourite writer and he was diabetic, so he would ask for bloody Mary without sugar. This is my tribute to him," he chirps.
Next, we are introduced to two other cocktails - the whisky old fashioned, a strong concoction of ginger-infused whisky, Balsamo-made ginger bitter and ice; and the chocolate martini which is a vodka-based cocktail mixed with chocolate syrup and chocolate bitter. It will trick you into thinking you're drinking a smoothie till it gets to your hippocampus and makes things blurry.
Initiated now, we make an attempt at refurbishing the Aperol spritz and join Balsamo behind the bar. Our mixologist is eccentric, but fun. He is polite, but kittenish. He is a perfectionist and that is evident in the delicate way he chills the glasses, stirring the ice with a long spoon in a rhythmic way. He is accepting, too.
Because when we mess up, he jokes, "It's better than the one he makes," pointing at his colleague. A tad embarrassed, we smile only to be reassured, "Don't worry, the idea is to share something special and add magic in everything you do." We reach out for the olive we forgot to add and correct him, "Italian magic."
ON: July 8, 4 pm (infusions and spritzers masterclass); July 15, 4 pm (cocktail bitters masterclass); July 22, 4 pm (brunch cocktails)
AT: CinCin, Raheja Towers, BKC.
COST: Rs 1,500 (for infusions and spritzers masterclass); Rs 2,000 (for cocktail bitters and brunch cocktail masterclasses)
What brings you to India?
I am almost 23 but my life has been a roller-coaster ride. I was born near Rome in Italy; I spent a few years growing up in Australia, worked in London and now, I am here. I guess it's destiny and my wish to learn and grow that's brought me here. We all have two lives. The second one begins when we realise we just have one life.
How are you liking India so far?
It's amazing. I am understanding the Indian palate.
What can one expect at your masterclasses?
How to make genuine cocktails with natural ingredients.
* Use natural ingredients and experiment with new flavours.
* When you make a cocktail at home remember that it has three parts - the alcohol, which can be a spirit or a liquer; the sour part, which is usually a citric fruit; and the sweet part, which can be any form of sugar.
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