There aren’t many places you will find some of the world’s toughest dudes battling for the honor to wear a pink shirt, but that’s exactly what happens for three weeks in May each year at the Giro d’Italia, one of professional cycling’s three Grand Tours. Known for its legendary champions, mythical feats of heroism, epic climbs, and frenzied fans, the Giro exhibits a distinctive flavor of unpredictability and passion with many riders fueling themselves and their efforts with raw emotion, in stark contrast to the calculated tactics that have come to typify the Tour de France over the past decade or so. Cyclists like Fausto Coppi, Mario Cippolini, and Marco Pantani run the gamut from legendary to flamboyant to tragic, each of their stories lending more color to an already colorful event. And, of course, the color that every rider in the Giro d’Italia dreams of is pink, the color of the race leader’s jersey, the Maglia Rosa.
If we were to talk about the inspiration for the Maglia Rosa cocktail in terms of the chicken and the egg–the chicken being the Giro d’Italia and the egg being the color pink–the egg unquestionably came first. After cooking up a batch of housemade raspberry syrup, I started searching for recipes that would allow me to make use of my new ingredient. As usual, when working with something new, I settled on a classic: the Clover Club. Having never mixed one before, I was struck, as I’m sure many are, by its vivid pinkish hue. But rather than disregard it as something for the girls, as Esquire once did, I thought, “Hey, that’s the same color as the Giro d’Italia leader’s jersey. I wonder if it’s possible to give it more Italian flavor.” I figured I had a 50/50 chance: it could either be tasty, or it could end up down the drain. Pretty good odds, in my opinion, and worth giving it a shot.
The goal, of course, was to retain the color, and after considering my options with regard to which Italian spirits I could substitute for the gin, I decided on grappa. Tweaking the spec slightly, but remaining somewhat close to the Clover Club, yielded an interesting but, by and large, unmemorable variation. The key, as it turned out, was to rinse the glass with sambuca. Doing so added a delicate nose to the ungarnished cocktail with the anise providing just the right amount of subtle complexity to the drink’s taste. Prelibato.
1 1/2 oz. Lorenza Inga Grappa di Moscato
1/2 oz. Dolin Dry Vermouth
1/2 oz. lemon juice
1/2 oz. Housemade Raspberry Syrup
1/4 oz. Romana Sambuca
1 egg white
Combine the grappa, vermouth, lemon juice, raspberry syrup, and egg white in a mixing glass. Dry shake for 7-10 seconds to allow the egg white to emulsify. Add ice, shake well, and fine strain into a chilled coupe rinsed with sambuca.
Thanks to Twenty20 Cycling Co. for letting us turn their workbench into a bar.