Italian cocktails are having a moment, if you consider how many bartenders are playing with amari, vermouths and clean bitter spirits these days. Count Ian Parr, Maximo's bar manager, in that number.
After a summer of studying Italian wines (its regions, 200+ grape varieties), Ian will launch his own list next week.
About half the menu is devoted to Italian classics - here's where you'll find the Negroni, Americano and Aperol Spritz, as well as the more contemporary Mezzo e Mezzo, made with rhubarb amaro and sweet vermouth, topped with soda.
It's a dry, perfumed aperitif, and I found it more approachable than other bittered drinks.
On the modern side of Ian's list, you'll find a Cynar-spiked Pimm's Cup and a julep that pairs bourbon and amaro, as well as two drinks he's written:
- The Billiards Player, a sturdy Manhattan variation based on rich rye whiskey (here, 10-year WhistlePig) that gets chocolate bitterness from chicory liqueur, and herbal citrus from yellow Chartreuse. Ian named this drink for a Milanese folk hero who won the king's daughter in a pool game - then had trouble collecting (ask Ian to tell you the story).
- Delicate and juicy, Stregheria translates to "witchcraft" - a reference to its alluring liqueurs, which include earthy, fennel-spiced Strega, and a grappa infused with the sour, minty Rue plant. Fortified wine and lemon juice give it a lilting bite at the finish. The Stregheria pairs especially well with seafood; Executive Chef Justin Daw has a way with scallops, and his citrus-Romano polenta might be my favorite new side.
Maximo's Italian Grill, 1117 Decatur, 586.8883
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