B is for Bergamot, C is for Calabria

Another in a series of posts about exotic citrus.

Those of you who follow my tweets (@manhattan_up) know I was recently blown away by a cocktail made for me by LCL contributor Brooke Arthur at Range. It was called the B-Line, a variant of their Third Rail cocktail, made with fresh squeezed Bergamot oranges. I left Range on a mission to find Bergamot oranges so I could re-create this amazing cocktail at home. Over the next few days I scoured the markets I know carry unusual citrus. When I inquired about them at my favorite Berkeley Bowl I was told only that they had come and gone. [See UPDATE at the end of this post.] However I persisted and finally located Bergamots at Monterey Market in north Berkeley. Joy!

What are Bergamots?

First, a bit of 411 for you straight from wikipedia:

The bergamot Citrus aurantium subsp. bergamia (Risso & Poit.) synonym (Citrus bergamia Risso) is a fruit the size of an orange, with a yellow color similar to a lemon, and has a pleasant fragrance. The juice tastes less sour than lemon, but more bitter than grapefruit.

The real magic in Bergamot however comes from the peel in the form of the oil it contains. This oil is not all all sweet or particularly citrusy (in contrast to orange or tangerine oils) and has a rather distinct rosiny character, which is not to everyone’s taste. It’s this oil which is used to give Earl Grey tea its unique aroma. (Actually, people are often surprised to learn this since orange is NOT what one thinks of when they smell Earl Grey.)

The best Bergamot fruit are grown in the province of Calabria in Italy, where the juice is used as a folk remedy for malaria. Reggio Calabria, the capital, is in fact sometime called “The city of Bergamot.” The fruit may also be made into marmalade, which after tasting the fruit, I could see being delicious.

NOTE: just after posting this I found a wealth of additional information about Bergamot oranges. Rather than simply re-state what someone else did so well already, I’ve elected to include a link for those interested in learning more to follow at their leisure. Here you go:

http://www.practicallyedible.com/edible.nsf/pages/bergamotoranges

My Creation: Calabria

While I loved the B-Line (see recipe below), I felt the intensity of the Bergamot would be further complemented by additional spice and complexity, specifically a higher-proof bourbon than the Bulleit and an amaro in place of the Lillet (which is pretty lightweight). After a bit of tinkering, I came up with this libation named for the region in Italy where the best Bergamot fruit are grown.

NOTE: I wanted to continue the tradition of giving train-related names to derivatives of The Third Rail. Unfortunately, the tram system in the capital of Calabria, Reggio Calabria, doesn’t have a distinctive name. Here is a beautiful old photo of the capital with a tram to go with this delicious cocktail anyway.

Calabria

1 1/2 oz. Old Grand Dad 114-proof bourbon
1 oz. Bergamot orange juice
3/4 oz. honey syrup (2:1)
1/2 oz. Amaro Averna
4 drops Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel Aged bitters
2 small pieces of Bergamot orange shell (after juicing)
A very long thin strip of orange peel, tied with an overhand knot, for garnish

Shake everything, but the garnish, hard over ice.
Double strain into a chilled coupe.
Garnish with the knotted orange peel.

B-Line

1 1/2 oz. Bulleit Bourbon
1 oz. Bergamot orange juice
3/4 oz. Lillet blanc
1/2 oz. honey syrup (1:1)
1 – 2 dashes orange bitters
1 piece Bergamot orange peel or a small chunk of orange*
A thin strip of orange peel, for garnish

Shake everything, but the garnish, hard over ice.
Double strain into a chilled coupe.
Garnish with the orange peel.

NOTE: This cocktail just got a nice write up on sfist.com. Here’s the link.

(*) – The recipe outline on the Range blog “Cocktail of the Day” calls for the chunk orange but I am pretty sure Brooke made it for me with a piece of peel in the shaker.


UPDATE: A few days after first writing this, here’s what greeted me at Berkeley Bowl:

The moral of the story, I guess, is to take what the produce people there have to say with a large grain of salt.

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4 Responses to “B is for Bergamot, C is for Calabria”

  1. The B-Line is sublime and the Calabria is a delicious twist weaving in some tasty amaro, kudos for an excellent creation.

    I was thinking of trying a test batch of bergamot tincture, it would make a great way to preserve some bergamot flavor for when they go out of season.

  2. Thanks, Fil.

    Making a tincture has also crossed my mind, though there’s something really wonderful about the combination of the peel and juice together.

    Michael

  3. [...] the B-Line, incorporating bergamot with stunning success. Mr. Manhattan has written about the bergamot as well, and introduced his own concoction, the Calabria, which I find to be quite [...]

  4. We grow bergamots in the central valley. The ones you bought we’re probably from us.

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