Bepi Tosolini Digestivo Experience

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With more and more restaurants serving cocktails and licencing bodies increasingly demanding that food is served as a condition of granting new bar licences, the opportunity for new and tasty aperitif and digestivo cocktails has never been greater. With this in mind the nice people at Bepi Tosolini, regarded as one of Italy’s best grappa distillers, set out to inspire bartenders to create new digestivo cocktails.


I do like judging cocktail competitions as it's a great way of keeping abreast with new techniques and ideas, and such competitions are especially enjoyable when they're held in our own Cabinet Room bar - the bartenders may be playing away but I'm very much at home - literally. To top it all, my fellow judges were from Bepi Tosolini, the lovely Lisa Tosolini and Silvia Blasoni.

Entrants to the competition were challenged to create cocktails using Bepi Tosolini I Legni Rovere barrique aged grappa, Bepi Tosolini Amaro and Saliza Amaretto. At least one of these three products had to be the main base of the cocktail with the winning drink including both the barrique aged grappa and the amaro.

Each cocktail and presentation was judged out of 50 points with points were awarded according to taste (out of 10), aroma (out of 10), appearance (out of 8), presentation (out of 7), brand inspiration (out of 7), food matching (out of 5) and name of cocktail (out of 3 points). As you can see, taste only accounted for one-fifth of the total scoresheet with aroma and appearance jointly being more important, as was each bartender's presentation and how they relayed how Bepi Tosolini had inspired their cocktail.

When it comes to taste, there are two extremes of digestivo cocktails - those that are sweet and dessert-like and those that are spirituous and strong - the first prolonging the pudding experience that should end a truly indulgent meal, the second perhaps being an alternative to an after-dinner whisk(e)y or brandy. I fall firmly in the latter camp - short and strong being the kind of drink I veer towards pretty much most of the day - I even like my beer to have some backbone. Fortunately, Lisa and Silvia proved to have sweeter palates so making our judging panel more balanced.

The standard line delivered at the end of all cocktail competitions, "all the drinks were superb", was genuinely the case here. However, one drink, coupled with high points for aroma, appearance, presentation and an incredible portrayal of brand knowledge and how this inspired the cocktail, saw Luke Robinson from Her Majesty's Secret Service in Bristol take the prize - a very limited edition bottle of Bepi Tosolini sherry wood aged grappa and a trip to Bepi Tosolini's distillery in Italy.

Luke's competition drink (see recipe below) included a homemade 'Strawberry coffee fruit syrup' made with strawberry and the dried shells normally discarded when coffee beans are harvested. The syrup, and indeed the drink, tasted great but is not an easily replicated syrup and so cocktail. Although not part of the competition's rules or the judging criteria, it's great if a competition produces a cocktail that others can make, after all most of us want our cocktails to become classics. Hence, my fellow judges and I were keen to taste how the drink would taste substituting a simple strawberry liqueur for the strawberry coffee syrup. The answer - tasty. Perhaps not as complex as the competition drink, but tasty all the same. So it is this version that we asked Luke to make for our video and this version that I'd encourage you to try for yourself. The other three drinks are fairly easy to replicate as they stand, so when the appropriate digestivo moment arises give them all a go.

Luke Robinson


From: Her Majesty's Secret Service, Bristol, England
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Velvet Hammer (winning drink)
Glass: Nick & Nora
Garnish: Mint and toasted coffee bean shells
Method: STIR all ingredients with ice and strain into chilled glass.
40 ml Bepi Tosolini I Legni Rovere grappa
20 ml Bepi Tosolini Amaro
7 ml Strawberry coffee fruit syrup (1:1)
2 dash absinthe

Velvet Hammer (easily replicated version)
Glass: Nick & Nora
Garnish: Mint and toasted coffee bean shells
Method: STIR all ingredients with ice and strain into chilled glass.
40 ml Bepi Tosolini I Legni Rovere grappa
15 ml Bepi Tosolini Amaro
15 ml Crème de fraise
2 dash Absinthe

Dan Corum Fisher


From: Hawksmoor Air Street, London, England
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Archetti
Glass: Nick & Nora
Garnish: Grapefruit zest twist (discarded) & brandy soaked cherry
Method: STIR all ingredients with ice and strain into chilled glass.
45 ml Bepi Tosolini I Legni Rovere grappa
15 ml Luxardo Sangue Morlacco
10 ml Lapsang Campari (10g Lapsang Souchong infused in Campari for 2 hours and then strained)
2 ml Sugar syrup (2:1)
3 dash Peychaud's bitters
Origin: Dan named this drink after his grandfather who was both an Italian chef and a grappa lover.

David Robinson


From: Hillhead Bookclub, Glasgow, Scotland
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The Foothills of Friuli
Glass: Cordial glass
Garnish: Toasted rosemary sprig pegged on rim
Method: THROW all ingredients with ice and strain into chilled glass. SMOKE with rosemary.
40 ml Bepi Tosolini I Legni Rovere grappa
15 ml Red wine reduction & brown sugar syrup (500 ml red wine reduced to 125 ml with ¾ cup soft brown sugar)
20 ml Freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice
2 dash Bitter Truth Celery bitters

Shaun Spurrier


From: Harvey Nichols, Birmingham
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Crème Brulee Sour
Glass: Small wine glass
Garnish: Crumbled amaretti biscuits and sugar flambéed
Method: SHAKE all ingredients with ice and strain back into shaker. DRY SHAKE (without ice) and fine strain into chilled glass. Caramelise foam with a blow torch to produce a crème brûlée-like head.
50 ml Saliza Amaretto
25 ml Freshly squeezed lemon juice
25 ml Monin Vanilla syrup
1 fresh Egg white

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