I am very remiss in posting this cocktail, as we have actually been enjoying these since last April. Sadly, I was never in close proximity to a camera while they were in progress, so this photogenic beauty didn’t made it on the site. That is all behind us now, however, and the Sculaccione is in the archives for good.
My first round of this pretty pink cocktail was during what started as a lark and turned out to be a course-altering event. One Saturday night, Dan and I took Dr. Cocktail up on a very kind invitation—to visit The Doheny, Cedd Moses‘ new private bar downtown. Having visited Seven Grand and heard all kinds of great things about its ritzy cousin, we jumped at the invitation. As luck would have it, we were there early enough to be the only patrons and thus had a lovely time in the care of Vincenzo Marianella and Eric Alperin. Hailing from the bars at Providence and Osteria Mozza, respectively, it was a safe bet that we were in good hands.
During the course of the evening, they both mentioned that there was an event happening the next day—something called “The Sporting Life”—an informal gathering of local bartenders and cocktail-types. Being only the second meeting, there wasn’t much on the agenda but we were encouraged to drop by and check it out. It’s well known that LA has long been a cocktail wasteland, so the idea of a fraternity of cocktail-oriented bartenders was intriguing enough to pull me in. As it happened, “The Sporting Life” had grown a bit from its first meeting; our nascent cocktail scene had apparently been waiting for just such an excuse to blossom. Since that first Sunday in April, the event has grown into a monthly cocktailian convention, propelled as much by the talent and enthusiasm of our local bartenders as what appears to be a growing consciousness of classic cocktails amongst the city’s bar patrons.
The important note for this post, though, is what we were drinking at that gathering. Damian Windsor, another local bartender, had secured Partida’s sponsorship for the meeting, held at Osteria Mozza. It was a rather overwhelming experience, walking into a room full of people buzzing about cocktails and bitters and tequila and amaros but, in the way of such events, suddenly there was a drink in my hand. A pink drink—but sour, not sweet. The meeting started, and all was revealed: Eric, previously behind the bar at Mozza, had created the Sculaccione to fit with the Italian theme. The meeting moved on, I had another drink (or two), we found ourselves having lunch at Comme Ça, and I completely forgot to ask Eric for the recipe. Fortunately, Chuck, being much more on top of things than I, wrangled the recipe and posted it last year. He’s such an overachiever.
2 oz blanco tequila
¾ oz fresh lime juice
½ oz fresh grapefruit juice
½ oz Campari
½ oz simple syrup
Shake over ice for 10-12 seconds. Strain into an old fashioned glass filled with ice and garnish with a lime wheel.
Thanks to Chuck, we’ve made the Sculaccione many times. We’re big Campari drinkers, so this cocktail is pretty much perfect—a tart, zippy, biting version of my go-to margarita. You really want a flavorful, peppery tequila here, to provide the right balance for the grapefruit and Campari and make the drink sing, but so long as you have a base spirit with a strong earthy component this cocktail is a sure pleasure.
Though I love this cocktail, the problem I run into is that I usually keep reposado and añejo tequila in the house, not blanco. Fortunately, I recently received a bottle of Inocente platinum tequila and the Sculaccione, having had the original for comparison, was a perfect cocktail to test it on. I can say that Inocente, whatever else might be going on, certainly has a lovely bottle. Made of recycled glass and designed without excess packaging, the production of Inocente has been designed to be as environmentally-friendly as possible. All well and good, but it is also a product of the distillation craze—that is, liquors that are distilled and distilled and distilled, much like vodka, to create a “smooth” flavor.
The spirit itself is good quality; perfectly clear, with nice body, a spicy nose and strong agave notes. The flavor is, indeed, smooth, but it lacks the peppery, biting mid-palette that makes a blanco tequila sing, especially in a cocktail like the Sculaccione. One of the charms of tequila is its earthy, rich, vegetal qualities and Inocente, while adequate for mixing, is a tequila I’d be more apt to give a beginning tequila drinker to introduce them to the spirit. If you’re after a stronger, more traditional tequila flavor I’d skip ahead to Partida in this one.