Even within the boozy confines of a bar, a drink with a mighty wallop of alcohol is not always desirous.
On Wednesday I wrote about the growing interest in and availability of aperitif wines, typically flavored with a suite of botanicals designed to promote the appetite and to pair well with a meal's starting course. While the practice of sipping vermouth or a quinquina before a meal may still be more of a European habit, there are plenty of lower-alcohol aperitif cocktails that perform largely the same function.
Here's one with a bit of history to it: the Adonis. Once a regular drink at the Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar, the Adonis was named for the popular 1884 musical that was the Mamma Mia of its era. A simple combination of dry sherry and sweet vermouth (similar in composition to the similarly venerable Bamboo, made with dry vermouth), the Adonis has a modest alcohol content—a plus when you're preparing to embark on a well-prepared meal, the nuances of which would likely be obscured by the palate-deadening effects of potent preprandial drinks.
The flavor is a pleasant blend of the dry nuttiness of the sherry—a fino or manzanilla is great here, though you can also go for additional richness (without added sweetness) with an oloroso or amontillado—and the herbaceous bitterness of the vermouth. While Carpano Antica is a lovely and highly regarded vermouth, it's a bit heavy-handed in flavor for this drink. Instead, aim for a basic Italian rosso such as Martini & Rossi or Cinzano (or Martelletti, if you can find it), or the more floral characteristics found in Dolin rouge.
I love whiskey and gin as much as anyone, and those spirits certainly have their place. But if you're preparing to enjoy a good meal this weekend, give this lighter aperitif a shot at the outset, and if you do, fill us in on how it all worked out.
Note: Some versions of the Adonis call for equal amounts of sherry and vermouth; make one version for yourself and another for a friend, and see which one you prefer.
- 2 ounces dry sherry
- 1 ounce sweet vermouth
- 1 dash orange bitters
- Garnish: orange twist
Combine ingredients in a mixing glass and fill with ice. Stir well for 20 seconds, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Twist a piece of orange peel over the drink and use as garnish.