Sunday, July 25, 2010

Gran Classico...a new bitters in town

It is not a secret that your host is a fan of bitters. Campari, Cynar, Averna, Fernet...all add an alluring bitterness to cocktails and can often balance against sweeter components.

Recently, a new bitter arrived on the San Francisco market, and is making a big impact on the cocktail scene. It's called Gran Classico, an original bitter based on an 1864 recipe from Turin, Italy.

Unlike its cousin Campari (also another bitter in the Turin style), Gran Classico is darker in color, with a pronounced wormwood bite. Enthusiasts of absinthe will recognize that wormwood provides a bitter taste to absinthe and can help balance its licorice overtones. The taste of Gran Classico is different than most other bitters on the market and the wormwood and gentian stand out, as does rhubarb and bitter orange peel. Gentian is one of the main flavoring ingredients in Angostura bitters. Unlike Fernet, there are no minty/menthol overtones. Bottled at 28% abv, Gran Classico packs a punch and makes a flavorful Negroni when combined with gin and a high quality sweet vermouth.

While Gran Classico is now manufactured in Switzerland at a boutique distillery, its U.S. distribution rights are owned by Tempus Fugit spirits, based in Petaluma. Tempus Fugit imports and markets a variety of French and Swiss absinthes. (as well as Voyager Gin from Washington State). During their research, they came across Gran Classico bitter and decided to add it to the catalog due to its unique and wonderful flavor. In addition, the 2007 U.S. legalization of wormwood opened up access to the U.S. market (previously, thujone, a chemical in wormwood was illegal in the U.S. due to perceived hallucinogenic properties).

The bitter can be purchased at K&L Wine & Spirits and retails for $29.99.

Helpful Links:

Select Bars in SF that have Gran Classico cocktails on the menu:

15 Romolo
Comstock Saloon
Cafe Des Amis

Featured Cocktail:

Old Pal
1/2 oz. Gran Classico Bitter
1 oz. dry vermouth
2 oz. bourbon
Stir and serve over ice in a double old-fashioned glass. Garnish with a flamed orange peel.

Created by Jonny Raglin
Comstock Saloon, San Francisco

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