Howdy from Texas! If you didn't already know, my day job is working as a postdoc in ornithology and evolutionary biology at Harvard. My lab is doing a little collecting trip near Lubbock this week to get some bird specimens and tissues for the museum. We're staying at a lovely ranch outside of town. No cocktails here, so all I can do is wistfully look at these photos. But we've seen some great birds. :-)
If I had to choose a cocktail to drink right now, it would probably be this one. Whiskey + sweet vermouth + amaro is one of my favorite cocktail combinations. The Boulevardier is the best known example of this I can think of, and every now and then I'll come across another "established" recipe that uses a similar formula, like the Black Manhattan. But for the most part it seems like a very DIY sort of thing. I love trying different amari with my favorite bourbon or rye and sweet vermouth. There's no perfect recipe, because the flavor is going to be different every time - I usually have to tweak the proportions a bit to get it right. So I do appreciate when someone else does the work for me, as Audrey Saunders did with the Little Italy.
Like my other whiskey/vermouth/amaro cocktails, the Little Italy is basically a riff on the Manhattan, this time with Cynar instead of the usual Angostura bitters (Cynar is an Italian liqueur, thus the name). Not too sweet or too bitter, Cynar adds a wonderful complexity to a classic cocktail. The flavor is reminiscent of a Manhattan but slightly smoother and more herbaceous. I'd personally prefer one of these any day!
History: The Little Italy was invented in 2005 by Audrey Saunders of Pegu Club in New York. Two other favorites of mine that she created are the Old Cuban and the French Pearl - she really has a way of developing simple, elegant recipes that are instant classics.
Styling Notes: the cocktail pick is from Muddle & Stir and the Nick & Nora glass is from The Boston Shaker.
Little Italy1 1/2 oz. rye whiskey
3/4 oz. sweet vermouth
1/2 oz. Cynar
Combine ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a Nick & Nora glass and garnish with two* brandied cherries on a pick.
*I recently learned that it's an Italian superstition that an even number of garnishes is bad luck. But the Little Italy recipe specifies two cherries. Maybe it's tempting fate; add a third if you want to be sure.
Recipe from Imbibe.