In a bright and lively open-air rooftop Italian restaurant in New York’s flatiron district, we were invited to join some of the industry’s best-known writers and presenters to enjoy a delicious Mediterranean lunch, along with a spritz or two. Yes yes, tough work, but someone has to do it!
The reason for this delightful midweek gathering? To meet members of both the US and European teams, as well as a member of the family of one of the most recognizable family-owned cocktail brands in the world, Luxardo.
What Is Luxardo & Why You Should Know It
To professional bartenders, Luxardo is a brand that simply cannot be avoided. Its two most famous cocktail ingredients are both of the cherry variety. Luxardo Maraschino dry cherry liqueur and those deep dark and intense preserved marasca cherries that are synonymous with such classics as the Manhattan or the Rob Roy.
Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur is an ingredient that, as you start to get deep into cocktail culture you’ll be ordering as an essential part of your backbar. Its vibrant green glass and straw wrapped bottle, a design which itself is protected, is immediately recognizable. Open most classic cocktail books and you’ll find a reference to Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur in there somewhere. The Last Word, Aviation, Casino to name just a few, all require maraschino. A splash works brilliantly in a Manhattan, we even call for it in our bottled batched Manhattan recipe. Try it, you won’t go back to your old Manhattan recipe!
Don’t be fooled, although this is described as a cherry liqueur, Maraschino is not a bright red and fruity liqueur. This is a sweet, yet dry, clear and delicately flavoured ingredient that adds real complexity to cocktails. This difference is important and comes from the fact that Maraschino is made by fermenting and distilling the juice from the marasca cherry, then sweetening this distillate. Essentially a sweetened eau de vie (fruit brandy). It’s NOT a spirit that’s flavoured with steeped cherries or cherry juice and then sweetened to create a Cremé de Cerise or ‘Cherry Liqueur’.
However delicious and famous, Luxardo Maraschino and those famous dark jars of cherries with their vibrant yellow label were not the reason we were gathered together on this warm and sunny rooftop. Instead, Luxardo wanted to show off some of its lesser-known ingredients and give us a sneak peak of some new toys to come.
The way this was done was simple, through the delicious medium of the Spritz!
There were 4 recipes to enjoy:
Luxardo Aperitivo, pink grapefruit soda, prosecco, garnish with a grapefruit wedge
Luxardo Limoncello, dry white wine, lemon juice, soda, garnish with a lemon wedge & mint sprig
Luxardo Apricot, Luxardo Amaro Abano, Fino Sherry, tonic, garnish with a lemon wedge & green olive
Luxardo Bitter Bianco, dry white wine, pink grapefruit soda, garnish with a grapefruit wedge
Spritz Your Way
These recipes help to demonstrate how broad the category of the Spritz has come from the traditional ‘one, two, three’ formula (1 sparkling water, 2 bitter, 3 sparkling wine). Something we embrace ourselves on Candra in recipes like the French Spritz and Royal Bitter Spritz.
As long as there is a representative of bitters, wine and bubbles served with ice in a wine glass, then it seems fair game to call a recipe a spritz these days.
Our favourite of the four Spritz offerings on the day was the Roma Spritz. It had real complexity and depth of flavour not always associated with the light and breezy character of the Spritz.
Dry sherry, a hint of apricot, deep and rich amaro body all lifted with the bubbles of tonic water, great stuff.
Luxardo Limoncello, certainly not a new ingredient, now has a pack that we’d say better suits the liquid inside. This has always been a good limoncello, and although we’d never tell you to judge a book by its cover, its elegant new label better fits the liquid inside, making it easier to believe it’s worth drinking.
Luxardo’s Bitter Bianco was also on display, our preferred bitter in a White Negroni, and we’d say it’s a great addition to your spirit shelf.
As lunch (which was delicious) drew to an end and speeches were delivered, we got onto what seemed to be a couple of the key moments of the gathering beyond it being a pleasant afternoon ‘jolly’ and a ‘hey, remember us’! Firstly, their new but old Espresso Liqueur that launched in the US at the end of 2022 and is being rolled out around the rest of the world. It may not be a new Luxardo product, but this is a new ingredient to most people outside of Italy, and the world is a little better for having access to it.
Coffee & Bitters
This is a rich coffee liqueur with notes of dark chocolate, bold, rich espresso and hints of sweet vanilla that’ll take its place among other premium coffee liqueurs to not only be sipped neat after dinner or make a great Espresso Martinis with. Luxardo Espresso will also work in elegant cocktails such as our take on the classic Red Hook cocktail, the Red Hook Café.
The liqueur is made using a thirty day infusion of a selected variety of fine coffees from Brazil, Columbia and Kenya to get as close to an espresso experience as possible.
Here’s what the brand had to say about it:
“Much like the heritage of the espresso in Italian culture, Luxardo holds a legacy in Italian artisanal spirits that spans more than 200 years. At Luxardo, we are excited to launch Luxardo Espresso Liqueur with deep Italian roots that are essential for crafting cocktails that are highly celebrated in American culture.”Matteo Luxardo, Export Director for Luxardo.
Finally came a sneak peak at Luxardo’s newest creations, which is always fun! A range of bitters with some interesting flavours such as: camomile, sour cherry and rhubarb. Along with the more typical bitter orange and coffee varieties.
A particular favourite from the selection was the chamomile bitters. Delicate, yet powerful, we look forward to playing with them to try a floral note in a Dry Martini. Maybe while also switching out dry vermouth for Manzanilla sherry? Maybe they’ll work in an Aviation with chamomile floral notes in place of the typical violet liqueur? However, these questions will have to wait until the end of the year when the range of bitters are released. To be continued…
With lunch and formalities over, and while catching up with old friends on a slow and meandering route to the exit, Gareth, Luxardo’s Global Ambassador who’s better known as ‘G’, had one final noteworthy drink experience up his sleeve. He jumped behind the bar to mix us one final cocktail, his take on a White Negroni / Dry Martini hybrid that’s well worth your consideration. It’s called the Coppo Negroni and you can find the recipe below. Saluti!
1 ⅓ oz or 40 ml Luxardo Bitter Bianco
⅔ oz or 20 ml Luxardo London Dry Gin
½ oz or 15 ml Tio Pepe
Shake all ingredients with ice and fine strain into a Nick n’ Nora or Cocktail Glass, and serve with 3 green olives.
As always, don’t forget to show us what you made by tagging us!
@Candra_Drinks #MakeBetterDrinks #CandraDrinks