Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Cimmerian Shade Cocktail


Classical Mythology of, pertaining to, or suggestive of a western people believed to dwell in perpetual darkness.
very dark; gloomy: deep, Cimmerian caverns.

One of the coolest things about creating a drink is naming it. My favorite cocktail book, ‘Professor’ Jerry Thomas’s The Bartender's Guide from 1863 has some real masterpieces like “The Blue Blazer” (nothing to do with clothing… it’s the artful toss of blue Scotch fire from one glass to the other - an arm’s length away!), the Black Stripe (rum & molasses), Rumfustian (a hot drink to warm after a cold hunt made of egg yolks, beer, gin and sherry with lemon rind and sugar) and Pousse l’Amour (egg yolk, maraschino, vanilla cordial and cognac).

Channeling my inner Jerry Thomas, I wanted to make a drink of my own after I read an article recently in the NYT’s  about the ‘spritz’.

“Goodbye beer, it’s spritz time,” read one Italian newspaper headline this summer, gushing over the newfound popularity of the drink in Germany”, said the article.

I love adding things to sparkling wine, probably a leftover of the kir royales and spritzers of my youth. It brightens up wine and although it is not wise to use great vintages for the job, neither should it be used to make lousy wines palatable by masking the flavors. It is an additional flavor…an enhancement.

Bao Ong, who wrote the article said: “Venice, Padua and Trieste all claim paternity rights to the spritz, but its origins probably lie in the Austrian Empire, which took over Veneto in the early 19th century. Hapsburg soldiers, local legend has it, would water down the strong local wine with a squirt (spritzen) of sparkling water.” In Italy, bitter additions are the norm, things like Campari, Aperol or Cynar are combined with wine and soda or sparkling wine. Closer to home in Brooklyn, rhubarb and strawberry are added to the drink at The Clover Club (go to the website… it is very cool) while still keeping the bitter component for contrast.

The idea for the spritz is not original. Professor Thomas has many recipes for wine and champagne punches – a style that goes well back into the 19th century. Even though the term spritz may be German in origin, the concept is universal.

And what of the name, Cimmerian Shade? I loved the sound of it and the sense of it!  Obviously Robert E Howard thought so too when he named Conan the Barbarian’s homeland Cimmeria. There were Cimmerians (from the Greek, Κιμμέριοι) listed in the Odyssey (Ὀδύσσεια) where Homer said they lived “in a land of fog and darkness, at the edge of the world and the entrance to Hades” according to Wikipedia and it was this myth that caused the definition of Cimmerian to be coined. In reality, they were equestrian nomads from what is now Russia who may have been related to the Welsh and Bretons. The dark murky purple of the drink seemed to ask to be named after the mythic race of men.

For my new drink, my new addiction, a rich, dark Concord grape syrup with a hit of Cremé de Violette  and Aftelier’s rose essence  . I had made a wonderful (if grayish) ice cream with it… then topped it with more of the grape syrup and a few toasted almonds. Divine. I noticed Concord grape is appearing all over town this fall in drinks and sauces, after you taste this, you will know why. When I made the drink, I used a favorite sparkling wine, Donati Malvesia (organic too!). This gives it an unusual zing and is perfect for this drink (and delicious on its own).

Cimmerian Shade

2 T Violet Rose Grape Syrup
½ c Sparkling wine (Donati Malvesia )

Put the syrup in a glass, pour the sparkling wine over all and stir to blend or leave as it is for an ombré appearance (very popular in fashion this year!).

You can add more crème de violette and rose should you desire.

Violet Rose Grape Syrup based on All Our Fingers in the Pie’s Recipe

1 pound Concord grapes
1 c sugar
1 T lemon Juice
3 T Crème de Violette
1-2 drops Aftelier Rose Essence

Remove the skins from the grapes. Process the skins with the sugar till a puree. Cook the grapes and the puree till the pulp dissolves. Put this through a food mill or strainer to remove the seeds and cook this mixture till thickened to a thick syrup. Add the Crème de Violette and rose essence when cooled and store in the fridge.

1810 English Rummer Glass


alison said...

another great post,cheers!

Sarah said...

You caught me off guard with your early post! You are really into the concord grapes. Love your ideas. So creative. I am looking forward to concord grape season again so I can try more of these ideas! I think the floral notes are perfect with the concords. I found the jam to be very floral even without the addition of violet or rose.

Diane said...

I need one of those cocktails now to keep me going. Frantic here with Nigel's arrival tomorrow but I had to sit down for 5 minutes. The chickens behaved this morning!!! Diane

La Table De Nana said...

I'm still looking for your CDViolette:)

Barbara said...

Sarah's recipe for concord grape jam last month caught my eye, too. My mother used to make it, we went out and picked them for her.
Really like the idea of rose essence and Crème de Violette to make your syrup. It looks like a lovely drink, Deana, but I must admit to being intrigued by the Rumfustian! I hope, when chilly weather arrives in NYC, you'll do a post on that. (Even though we won't be coming in from a big hunt!)

Lazaro Cooks said...


Very sexy concoction for sure. Apart from the darkness attached with the name. Just a smartly flavored drink that I would love try.

I love naming my dishes. It's great fun. Like the one I made this weekend called "The Whack Job." A spicy dish indeed. Maybe I'll post it soon?!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

I love that name! A gorgeous cocktail.



SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

Grape syrup and sparkling wine? I think I can handle that. What a wonderful-sounding cocktail. Hopefully, it won't take me to the gates of Hades, though ;)

Mountain Girl said...

great little recipe for my very=ripe Concords hanging in huge heavy clusters in my yard. I'm headed out there with the clippers right now!!

Thank you!

Gemma said...

The names of the coctails seem to me very enterteining, je je je...
Cimmerio Sombra has a very nice color...

Ana Powell said...

Another great post.
Lovely dinner party cocktail ♥

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

You're such a clever cookie Deana! That drink looks absolutely wonderful! I'd most certainly have one (or two or more!) of these! :)

Faith said...

Hmm, that is strange that about the Itunes. Thanks for letting me know, I'll look into it! Delicious (and lovely) looking drink!

Linda said...

What a spectacular cocktail!
I would love a sip right now and I have not even had breakfast yet~