I typically plan my dinner parties with some sort of theme in mind for the meal. That theme extends to for both the food and the beverages, be it wine paired with the food, or a special cocktail created just for the event.
I was trying to figure out what to make for a Mother’s day dinner party when my mother happened to ask me about a Moroccan spiced carrot dish I’d made a couple of years ago. She said she was craving it and wanted the recipe. A couple of days later I saw this harissa-marinated chicken recipe. The crown jewel to the plan was this Tangerine Sesame Cake I saw in Sunset Magazine. Suddenly I had my theme for Mother’s day dinner.
But what to have for our pre-dinner cocktail? While perusing options I came across this recipe for the “Unusual Negroni”. If you don’t know what a Negroni is, it’s an Italian cocktail made with gin, Campari, vermouth and an orange twist. It is my absolute favorite summertime (ok, any time) cocktail. I love the mix of sweet, bitter, and herbal all in one chilled cocktail. The “unusual” version intrigued me because it used Aperol (Campari’s less bitter cousin) and Lillet both of which I thought I had on hand. Lillet is a fortified wine aperitif which also has a bittersweet citrusy flavor like Aperol.
As it turns out, I didn’t have any Lillet in the house but I did have Cocchi Americano Bianco, the Italian sister-from-another-mister of French Lillet. Cocchi Americano is like Lillet in that it’s also a fortified wine with aromatics which come from cinchona bark, citrus peel, and spices and works well as a substitute for the Lillet.
I also had some gorgeous blood oranges so I used a bit of their juice in the drink and the peel for garnish. Blood oranges are a popular juice in both Italy and Morocco. They have a deep red juice with a berry-like flavor on top of the citrus. Ultimately, everyone loved this cocktail and it was an excellent precursor to the Moroccan meal (see menu below).