Sometimes the winter drags you down.
Granted, this winter was a bit light in Georgia but it can drag you down anyway. That's why you make these comfort foods. You know, your macaroni and cheese. Or maybe you do a chicken pot pie with a lot of good stuff in it and, of course, a nice gravy.
My favorite: Beef stew with a nice hunk of crusty Italian bread.
It tastes great going down. But after eating it, you're going to want a nap. And, let's face it, your stomach is not going to be too happy.
Luckily, the old heads noticed that and figured out ways to keep you peppy even after having these heavy meals. I mean, you don't just want to eat and go to sleep, do you?
That's the idea behind amari (plural of amaro). I had to figure that one out. I don't speak Italian. Anyway, they are herbal and bitter. And they help the digestion.
I've been experimenting with them as part of my study of pre-prohibition cocktails. I can say I'm accustomed to bitter drinks because, well, a lot of them had that quality back in the day. It's also worth remembering that, back then, a lot of drinks were literally for medicinal purposes.
One of the most famous amari is Fernet-Branca. No one outside the company knows exactly what's in it or to the proportions. However, we do know that it's been around since 1845 and is one of the most famous. It's been brewed by the same family for all that time.
The thng about Fernet-Branca is that it is very bitter. In fact, after trying it straight once, I won't do it again.
But that's the beauty of the bitterness. Bitter plants have come to be known to the human digestive system as poisonous (or mildly so). When we drink something made of bitter herbs and it retains that taste, it stimulates our digestive system because t wants to get rid of it. Hence, the idea of a digestive.
The hard part is making the digestive palatable. Enter the alcohol which extracts the bitterness so that you don't have to eat the plants.
Researching digestives, I landed on the Root of All Evil cocktail. There are at east two with that name, one of them involves absinthe. This is not that one.
This one does involve bourbon and brings in some triples sec and Maraschino liqueur to mellow out the Fernet-Branca which, as I said, can be a bit of a shock to he system. Don't be afraid of it.
As a digestive, I recommend it highly as it is not as medicinal as other cocktails like it. If, on a winter's night, you do enjoy a beef stew, a chicken pot pie or a savory curry dish, consider this drink after the meal. It is a great way to relax, stimulate the digesive system and drift into the night.
The Root of All Evil
2 ounces bourbon or rye (I used Larceny)
.75 ounce triple sec
.5 ounce Fernet-Branca
.5 ounce Maraschino Liqueur
2 dashes orange bitters
Stir all the ingredients over ice and strain into a coupe or cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange peel. Express the oil from the peel if you like but, trust me, there is already a lot going on in this drink. The oils would be gilding the lily (as my wife likes to say).
Note: The original recipe said to shake over ice. I did, though I was skeptical. I was right; the complexity of the drink came through in the stirred version. It gets lost in a sea of bubbles when you shake it. As a rule of thumb, never shake a cocktail unless there is a non-alcoholic ingredient.