She drives me wild—but she’s so bitter!
A couple months ago I was drifting by my local Italian corner store in Brooklyn, and it’s where I usually treat myself to one of my favorite non-local guilty pleasures—Aranciata. It’s an Italian soda made by San Pellegrino, and made of real orange juice and sparkling water. It’s quite refreshing.
Well, this time the Aranciata was missing, but in its place was a bottle of Chinotto. Oooooohhhh, what could this dark mystery drink be, I wondered. I’m a person who has recently come to love bitter beverages. And over the past couple years I have fallen in love with a spirit called Cynar. It’s an alcoholic beverage, a bitter, that is made in the old school style with many different types of infused/macerated herbs as well as some vegetables, including artichokes. It’s delightfully bitter, and perfectly adapts to cocktails like the Little Italy (recipe here). If you’ve ever tasted Campari, it’s in the same family but without the artificial looking color.
Anyway, when I saw the Chinotto bottle with its dark complexion, it immediately made me wonder if this beverage could possibly be a wonderfully bitter soda version of Cynar?
Well, I tasted the stuff and immediately lifted my bottle high for a toast. I was right! It’s a beautiful beverage, not overwhelmed by sweetness, but instead balanced and quite robust and flavorful. The bitterness sits on your tongue and just begs for another drink. You need to try this stuff!
So, here’s my recommendation in mindful tasting of Chinotto. When you taste this stuff, I want you to be present. I want you to feel the flavors dancing on your tongue. Here’s what you need to do:
1. Buy a six-pack.
2. Slowly Drink 1 Chinotto on the rocks.
3. You will probably make a grimace and a ehhk face.
4. Relax. Ponder the Chinotto experience. Embrace the bittersweetness. Think about how foreign this stuff is, about how this taste is from a fruit that looks like an orange, but is way more complex, and very specific to Italy.
5. Finish your drink. Wait one day, try another bottle.
6. Repeat every other day, until you have acquired the taste for Chinotto.
Now listen, the first bottle may not yield a celebration, but once you adapt to the unique flavor of the this drink, you will savor it like a fine wine. It’s great with a variety of foods—and try it as a digestif after your meal. And it’s all-natural—not filled with weird American soda ingredients you can’t pronounce.
Photo by Rusty Ralston