Midnight Stinger

I have long eyed the “Fernet About It” on The Lion’s Share’s menu and was getting excited about it when the gracious & handsome Has suggested another drink he’s been really enjoying lately, the Midnight Stinger, something he picked up on a recent trip to Death & Co. in New York City.

The Stinger is a classic dessert cocktail with brandy and creme de menthe. It is sweet. So sweet in fact, that this is one of the very few all-booze drinks that one should shake (as opposed to stir) in order to mitigate how cloying it can be… and while this “Midnight” version is also suitable for post-meal drinking, that’s more or less where the similarities end:

Midnight Stinger
1oz Elijah Craig 12 year bourbon
1oz Fernet Branca
0.5oz lemon juice
0.5oz simple syrup
Shake, strain over crushed ice in a double rocks glass; garnish with a bright little mint sprig.


I’m really starting to like these fractioned sours. This cocktail was damn tasty and, to my great surprise, not difficult to drink. You’d think it would be… an ounce of Fernet? It seems a bit rude for mint to RSVP only to have Fernet Branca show up, but as I’ve learned in my life, showing up with bourbon is a good way to be welcomed in the door.

I think it’s the sour template and the crushed ice, but this was a surprisingly easy, herbal drink. It’s a great option for someone who wants some of that peppermint oil in the back of their throat but not a full blast of the Branca’s devil potion. I’d actually give this as an intro drink to anyone curious about Fernet. Great before or after or even during dinner. Delicious.

I’ve still never had any of their menu drinks. I love that place.

Bitter Giuseppe

After the Milano Swizzle, I wanted more salt in cocktails, and thought back to a drink my friend Addison had made me some six months ago, the Bitter Giuseppe.

There are a few different versions of this drink floating around. According to this blog, the drink was created by Stephen Cole of Chicago’s wonderful The Violet Hour, and then made salty by Kirk Estopinal of Cure in New Orleans. Estopinal’s recipe calls for Punt e Mes with salt, Cole’s original with Carpano Antica without, but both share Cynar’s artichoke heart. At Craft and Commerce, they (predictably) do it their own way.

Bitter Giuseppe
2oz Cynar
1oz Carpano Antica sweet vermouth
2 small dashes of salt
Combine ingredients in Old Fashioned Glass over ice.
Cut a lemon peel with enough meat to extract about 10-15 drops of juice
Squeeze juice into the drink, express peel oils on top, stir, and serve.

As detailed in a marvelous post on beta cocktails, the extra salt reins in the Cynar — this cocktail has twice the Cynar but only half the bitterness of the Milano Swizzle. Apparently while reading French scientist Hervé This’s dense & detailed volume, Molecular Gastronomy, Estopinal found that salt curiously tempers bitterness in liquids even more than sugar.

In this case, the salt blunted the bitter effect, allowing the liqueur’s component ingredients to showcase their otherwise overpowered flavors. The nose is a bit unengaging, but the taste offers a complex and pleasing barrage of herbal notes (orange and artichoke, to name two of several) and deep salted umami that fades into soft and lingering bitterness at the finish.

Milano Swizzle

Every great once in a while, a happy accident aligns our schedules and all my best friends have the same afternoon off. Tuesday was such an afternoon, and never one to beat a dead gift horse, we all immediately descended upon Craft and Commerce for some sunshine cocktails.

It was gorgeous outside – we’ve had more summer this winter than we had all of last summer – so I plucked the Milano Swizzle off the menu for something bitter and refreshing before my embarrassingly bourgeois meal of bacon-wrapped corn dogs.

Milano Swizzle
0.25oz lemon juice
1oz Cynar
1oz Beefeater London Dry Gin
1oz Carpano Antica
pinch of cracked salt
Fill with crushed ice, swizzle or stir until glass frosts;
garnish with lemon peel.

I’m fairly confident that this is unrelated to Tony Abou Ganim’s Milano, and shares the Italian city only as a source for the lovely potable bitters – in this case, the earth and artichoke of the Cynar. This is essentially a Negroni with a different bitter and a bit of lemon juice. What really excited me about this drink was the salt, still a stone relatively unturned in my cocktail experience and used deliciously here.

The drink started tart and led to a complex orange and earth herbaceous that the salt made almost savory, with the alchemy of the ingredients intensifying the Cynar for a sharply bitter finish. The salt was mostly undetectable but for the savory effect, and definitely makes me want to play with it more.

Our bartender Ryan commented that salt and Cynar enjoy each other’s company. Drinking it, you can clearly see how it can be taken too far, but you can also get a glimpse of its potential.