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).
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.