It’s what I call my new favorite cocktail, though I admit my Golum impersonation is really quite lacking. Fear not, this drink more than makes up for its silly name, and may someday earn a better one. It’s so simple and honestly may be the single most delicious thing I’ve ever consumed.
I’m actually going to start with the accent and work back to the main spirit. What makes this drink is Cardamaro, which is an Amaro (bitter Italian liqueur) infused with cardoons, a relative of the artichoke. OK, I’m guessing I probably lost some of you at “artichoke liqueur”. Because, honestly, who in their right mind would want that?
Back story: See, I grew up relatively close to a town that called itself “The Artichoke Capital of The World”, so I know my way around these interesting thistles. Even in my lifetime, we could buy 10 good sized ones for $1. So, we ate a ton of them. But my dad always wondered, “Who in the hell was the first person to come along and eat one of these things?” I mean, they’ve got thorns all over the top of them, they look like they’re from the moon, and, there’s a resin on the leaves that, before being cooked, is one of the nastiest and bitter things you’ll ever taste. Seriously, if you fail to clean your cutting board or knife after working with them, the next thing that touches either will taste like tar. It is absolutely foul.
Of course, when prepared, they’re delicious. We always just wondered what visionary worked past all these initial barriers to get there. Or, for that matter, what nutjob decided they’d be great in a wine-based liqueur?
At any rate, I digress. Cardamaro, by itself, certainly has its charms, but it does make you work for them. I wouldn’t call it “undeniably delicious”, rather, something that geeks like me are duty bound to love because we’re supposed to. It reminds me of certain wines that way. Oddly tasty, but you can’t help but wonder if you’re giving it more extra points than it deserves simply because you’ve never had anything like it.
Enter Redemption Rye. A deep and satisfying liquor that is, without doubt, the best Rye that is reasonably available in the state. Rich caramel and that fruitiness that I love to find in both rye based beers and spirits. I don’t need to say as much about this as the Cardamaro because, well, it’s nowhere near as hard a sell to get anyone fired up about sweet brown liquor as it is artichoke wine. I’m assuming that anyone deranged enough to stay with me after the cardoon bit, was not going to need much coaxing to get on board with Rye.
So, the drink itself:
3 parts Redemption Rye
1 part Cardamaro
Gently shaken and served over rocks with an orange twist.
The result? The Rye smooths out any of the obstreperous angles and barbs the Cardamaro does have and simply lets the unique and aromatic charms poke through. The Cardamaro, in turn, takes the Rye, delicious on its own, and paints a regal and exotic border around it. The orange just sets it off. If there was ever an example of the whole being greater than the sum of parts, here it is. My dessert island drink.