Just when you think you've seen it all, some new vision comes dancing across the landscape. I think of that often at VINO, when after 20+ years in the wine biz I am introduced to yet another grape I haven't heard of, some totally new flavor sensation. In the cocktail world the same can be said for the seemingly endless discovery...or in this case rediscovery...of some long lost ingredient. That's what I thought of sitting at the bar at PDX's cocktail haven Clyde Common, where the unusual, creative, and delicious is always on the cocktail menu.
This latest happened some time ago, where a since forgotten cocktail containing Bonal Gentiane-Quina was offered. It had gin, some citrus I think, something else, and Bonal. First I had never seen the eye-catching bottle. My only experience with Bonal had been through the classic deco ad poster (left). So I have the drink and find Bonal is instantly something I have to add to my overflowing home bar. How wonderful! What is Bonal Gentiane-Quina? The importer's website describes it thusly: "Since 1865, this delicious aperitif wine has stood apart for its exceptional complexity, delightful flavors and stimulating palate. Serious to its role as aperitif, it was known as "ouvre l'appétit" - the key to the appetite. Found popular with sportsmen, Bonal became an early sponsor of the Tour de France. It is made by an infusion of gentian, cinchona (quinine) and renown herbs of the Grand Chartreuse mountains in a Mistelle base. Traditionally enjoyed neat or with a twist; also may enhance classic drinks in place of sweet red vermouth."
So I find the local distributor of this latest alcoholic intrigue, and not only do I order it pour moi, but I also find I can proudly stock it on the shelves at VINO. Sharing the love, as it were. And shoukd you need it, now you know where to get it. The hard part is finding recipes to use Bonal in. I came across this delicious drink called Alice's Key on a local drinks blog Portland Craft Cocktails. This is a refreshing, slightly bitter, slightly sweet spice infused libation. The herbal bitter Bonal plays perfectly with the fruity, sweet-ish Aperol, with gin playing the role of muscular playground monitor, giving a foundation and keeping those other ingredients in line. A very intriguing drink that makes me wonder, as always, what's coming around the booze corner next??
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from Portland Craft Cocktails
1 part gin
1 part Aperol
1 part Bonal
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker half filled with ice. Shake vogorously and strain into cocktail glass.