Why you should care
Because solid food and normal drinks? Overrated.
If you believe in the power of alchemy and love alcohol no matter its form or substance, this one’s for you.
During the Renaissance, magicians and heretics turned base metals into gold (and were burned at the stake for doing so). Today, many Italian bartenders are transforming traditional dishes into alcoholic food-drinks, a peculiar twist on classic cocktails. And they’re reaping rewards for their sublime creations.
If the thought of sipping beef, spaghetti or mozzarella sounds revolting, wait till you visit Chorus, a new club in Rome, meet “artist” bartender Massimo D’Addezio and taste his quirky concoctions. Depending on your taste, you’ll find the experience amazing, or possibly just pleasant.
The setting is a cocktail all its own: a former Vatican chorus hall, right in front of St. Peter’s Basilica, where prayers and religious hymns were performed by Sister Act–style nuns. Today, the space is a sleek metal-and-glass cage with panoramic windows — one of those places that are just right for drinking and could even persuade you to sip fried frog and chicken legs with gin. D’Addezio’s most transgressive cocktails are the spicy “17.5,” with an infusion of 13 different kinds of chili peppers (good luck!), and the Bull Shot, a bloody mary with beef consommé (yep, a T-bone-steak broth booze).
I give it a try. Not bad, though I do have to keep my mind off the egg and bacon.
The icing on the cake? D’Addezio’s Carbonara Sour, a drink with the ingredients of Rome’s specialty pasta dish: a bacon-and-vodka-sour infusion, egg white and black pepper, with a piece of tubular spaghetti for a straw.
I’m shocked just at the thought. Do you mean you take a dish of steaming carbonara with its egg-and-bacon cream, add the alcohol, place the whole lump in a shaker and then pour whatever comes out into an elegant cocktail glass? D’Addezio can’t help laughing: “You simply rock! Can’t believe you said that! No way!” This is pure manipulation of base ingredients, he says. “We’re talking about an infusion created at certain temperatures. It’s a sophisticated and complex process.”
Yeah, right. I’m practically a teetotaler, perhaps not the ideal person to judge or appreciate certain mutations. Plus, I prefer to keep my pasta as food to eat, not booze to drink. Nonetheless, I give it a try. And it’s not bad, though I do have to keep my mind off the egg and bacon.
Similar experiments are also being successfully carried out in Milan. Mixologists here have fallen in love with the Gorgonzola Daiquiri — they take a piece of blue cheese on the verge of having maggots and place it in a shaker … then the alchemy happens and a cocktail comes out. How about a morsel of battered fresh salmon and some mozzarella foam in your martini? Got that too. The fishy flavor sticks to the tongue for hours afterward.
Look at it from this perspective: It’s a diet and it’s convenient. No need to eat the salmon or pasta and then have a digestif or a shot. Liquids and solids come in one dose. Cheaper than a dinner. Next up, Italians will be sipping on Pizza Gin Fizz and Lasagna Bloody Mary.
Imagination runs wild. Never say never.