I was talking my friend Athena about cocktails. Now Athena, along with her husband Stewart also happens to produce my new favorite Oregon pinot noir at their Boedecker Cellars. She and Stewart also happen to enjoy a bit of a cocktail appreciation, and I was telling her how I've been getting into all these new and classic cocktails. We both agreed that part of the fun is going to the liquor store with all of its seedy, semi-illicit attraction. And I was also telling her about the Darkside Cocktail, which combines the best of both our worlds: wine and booze. It is made with Chinato, which is Barolo from Italy's Piedmont region (made from 100% nebbiolo grapes) that has been, according to The Washington Post's Jason Wilson "infused with quinine bark and other herbs and spices, including rhubarb root, star anise, citrus peel, gentian, fennel, juniper and cardamom seed." I've heard that Chinato has been popping up on various cockatil menus as the latest "in" ingredient. I had a cocktail made with Chinato recently at Portland's best bar, the Teardrop Lounge, where über-talented and very personable bartender/owner Daniel Shoemaker whipped me up their "Bejewelled" (gin, chinato, yellow chartreuse) which was delicious (FYI- get in soon and try their Fastback Cocktail, made with Bulleit Bourbon, paired with one of their spicy appetizers. A match made in alcoholic heaven!). I got the recipe for this Darkside Cocktail from Wilson's column, and it was fabulous. of course anything made from gin has a pretty good chance of gaining my appreciation, and the combination here with herbally/fruity Chinato and citrusy/bitter Peychaud really nailed it on the pleasure meter. A perfect starter before my Fastback and snack!
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From Jason Wilson/The Washington Post
2 1/2 ounces gin, preferably Plymouth brand
1 ounce Barolo Chinato, preferably Marcarini brand (see headnote)
3 dashes Peychaud bitters
Twist of lime peel
1 whole star anise (optional)
Fill a mixing glass two-thirds full with ice, then add the gin, Barolo Chinato and bitters. Stir vigorously for 30 seconds, then strain into a cocktail (martini) glass. Twist the lime peel over the drink, then drop it in, along with the star anise, if desired.