This, as so many things in my life, started with a book. A cookbook, to be more precise. I have something of a compulsive personality and used book stores are a weakness of mine. If I see one, pass one, hear about one—be it home or away—I have to visit. Used book stores are often filled with many of the same things; multiple copies of past Oprah’s Book Club selections, dog-eared and highlighted textbooks, a variety of Betty Crocker cookbooks from years past. Beside and around those books, though, live little treasures. Forgotten tidbits of history, culture, imagination, little time capsules that can transport you to childhood, to your grandmother’s kitchen, to eighteenth century India—books that you can hardly find anywhere any more unless you take the time to seek them out and discover them anew.
Which has absolutely nothing to do with my purchase of Mario Batali’s Babbo Cookbook, being neither forgotten nor ancient, but I did find it during a regular foraging jaunt to my local bookshop. It’s not the sort of book I would buy new, as I can make or adapt perhaps half of the recipes, but as I flipped through it I noticed the introductory section on aperitivi and I was sunk. Having been fortunate enough to sample from the drink menu at Osteria Mozza, I knew that Babbo’s drinks would be high quality. The book came home with me.
It features about eight aperitivi recipes from prosecco cocktails to the Negroni, but we chose to start with the Cin Cyn because it meant playing around with Cynar, the artichoke liqueur. I’d only had Cynar in perhaps two cocktails, so I was excited to give this a try. As luck would have it, I had a back issue of Imbibe handy which also contained a recipe for the Cin Cyn, albeit in different proportions. Being a conscientious and diligent reporter, I just had to try both recipes to see which one we preferred.
1 oz gin (Tanqueray No. 10)
1 oz sweet vermouth (Carpano Antica Formula)
1 oz Cynar
2 dashes orange bitters
Stir the first three ingredients over ice and strain into a chilled cocktail class. Add two dashes of bitters and garnish with a slice of orange peel.
So who won, you ask? Well, both. We decided that the Babbo drink, with its two ounces of gin, overpowered the Cynar and vermouth, but we liked the large orange twist and the late addition of the bitters. So we kept the 1:1:1 ratio from Imbibe and mixed and garnished it to match the Babbo recipe. And what did we get? A damn fine drink. It went perfectly with our little spread of antipasti before dinner.