When Nicholas Wermeling was putting together his new winter drink menu at Bittersweet, he found that it was lacking one thing: tequila. “There seems to be a lack of tequila-based winter drinks,” he says, “so I wanted to get that in there. I like to have as many spirits represented [as possible] on my menu at all times.” He built his newest drink around Gran Centenario reposado tequila, in which he could detect hints of vanilla. So he paired the Mexican spirit with housemade vanilla syrup and tempered it with cranberry juice, calling the cocktail Arandano Frizzante ($11), which means "sparkling cranberry” in Italian.
Here’s the recipe for the Arandano Frizzante, which gets its crisp sparkle from lambrusco Italian wine:
1.5 ounces Gran Centenario reposado tequilaWermaling chose Gran Centenario’s reposado tequila for a smoothness that comes from aging the tequila, which is made from ten-year-old blue agave, in new oak barrels. “It gives it a really clean, bright flavor profile,” he says. “Definitely a lot of citrus peel and a lot of vanilla up front. It works cleanly in this drink, where some other tequilas would just be overpowering.”
.75 ounce vanilla simple syrup
1.5 ounces cranberry juice
1.5 ounces lambrusco
Pour the first three ingredients into a shaker tin, add ice and shake. Strain the shaken ingredients into a tall glass over fresh ice and top it with the lambrusco. Garnish with fresh and sugar-coated cranberries.
The vanilla simple syrup is an infusion of vanilla beans in equal parts sugar and water. Bittersweet’s kitchen soaks the beans in vodka for about a week to make a vanilla extract that can be used as needed. “Then,” Wermeling says, “I take the beans and split them down the center and throw those right into the bottle with the simple syrup.”
“I wanted something seasonal,” Wermeling says of his winter recipe. “I wanted to work with cranberries.” The flavors worked well with the vanilla, and while the berries provide some sweetness, their tart flavor provides the acid component that balances the cocktail.
“It was chef’s [chef-owner Olav Peterson] idea to bring Lambrusco into the equation,” Wermeling says. “He’s far more knowledgeable about wines than I am.” The topper they selected? A generous pour of Lini 910 Lambrusco, a frizzante from Emilia-Romagna in northern Italy. “It just worked out beautifully,” Wermaling says, “because it managed to cut the sweetness of the drink and make it really smooth. The lambrusco is what pulls the whole thing together.”
For a food pairing, the bartender recommends pastry chef Whitney Mangen’s “Mint Chocolate” ($10), which contains a ginger-chocolate ganache, peppermint “snow” and cranberry sorbet. “It’s been described many times as, if winter could be embodied in a dessert, this would be the dessert,” he notes.
“Probably the best part about this drink is that it goes down real easily,” Wermeling says. “Even if people are a little timid with tequila, I put this in front of them and they tend to go through two or three pretty quickly.”