It will be time, soon, to put away your hot toddies and marshmallow-man coats, stash your gloves and cocoa and drink your first drink of spring. It's time to celebrate a pre-sundown happy hour—perhaps even outside. And when you toast the new season, I propose a new bottle: a bitter wine-based aperitif that's been made by the same Italian family for generations, but arrived on American shelves just last summer.
Cappelletti Aperitivo Americano is a rosy red sipper that has much more bitter cut than, say, Aperol, though is often served similarly, with a splash of cold Prosecco (or soda.) It's both orangey and herbal, with only a hint of sweetness and a drying finish. I'd say it's somewhere between Campari and sweet vermouth in flavor, and worth experimenting with at around $19/bottle. (I love the Americano from Vergano, too, but at $40-ish, it's not a frequent purchase.)
I've been playing around with Cappelletti as a Campari substitute. It particularly shines in a Teresa, a great low-ABV concoction that appeared in Dinah Sanders' The Art of the Shim (and Gary Regan's Joy of Mixology before that), credited to Rafael Ballesteros of Spain. Just use 2 ounces of the Cappelletti, mixed with an ounce of fresh lime juice and 3/4 ounce of creme de cassis (the G.E. Massenez version is great.) Shake it all until well chilled—this drink needs a little dilution. The result takes turns on your tongue: first puckeringly tart, then boldly bitter, then full of rich berry flavor, and completely vibrant, like spring emerging from winter's cloak.
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