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If you're a fan of grapefruit soda and you're looking for something with just a little more kick, The Storm Cloud is for you. Developed by Tyler Wang of Tony Maws' new restaurant The Kirkland Tap & Trotter in Somerville, Massachusetts, it's a delicious combination of bitter, herbal, sweet, and bubbly, topped off with a sprinkle of crunchy sea salt.
The drink's bitterness hits from three different angles. There are the fresh citrus flavors from just-squeezed pink grapefruit, and darker, heavier notes from Fernet Branca. Bridging the gap is a little Cocchi Americano, a white aperitif wine that's bitter and uniquely herbal, lightly sweet, and easy to drink over ice.
The Fernet amps up those herbal flavors, hitting harder with mint and licorice. Unless you're a bartender accustomed to shots of Fernet as a bit of a handshake between members of the industry, you may shudder at the taste of the digestif straight up, but mixed into a cocktail, it may be your new favorite thing.
Club soda and simple syrup help cut down the bitterness, and that's also what the salt is there for; it doesn't make the drink taste like seawater. Instead, a little salt helps tame bitterness, as explained recently by Kevin Liu.
The Storm Cloud is flavorful but not at all boozy—the 90 proof Fernet is the stiffest component, and there's only half an ounce of it. Serve it as an appetite-whetting preamble to a meal, or mix it up to sip alongside burgers, where it will cut the richness of the meat. Or, consider it as a hair of the dog brunch solution after a night of over-imbibing. The Fernet will help calm an upset stomach, while the low alcohol content will help to ensure that you don't end right back up in a tipsy state.
Liquor samples for this series were provided for recipe testing.