When Jill Zimorski recently added a new wine cocktail to her innovative list of liquid offerings at Washington, DC’s Café Atlantico, she deliberately omitted one key ingredient—wine. Quite the oenophile (her role as Beverage Director does, after all, include that of Sommelier), Zimorski sought to build a drink sans vino that evokes the aromas and flavors of a Northern Rhône peppery red. “I settled on Syrah for its distinctiveness and popularity,” explains Zimorski, “and the fact that the aromas and flavors I could incorporate might make for a tasty beverage.” The Faux Syrah, Syrah was born.
Zimorski selected Hangar One Vodka for the base spirit—a natural choice, as it’s distilled partially from Viognier grapes, the white varietal often blended into Northern Rhône reds to add a whiff of floral. Blackberry purée mimics the wine’s fruit notes, and a savory simple syrup steeped with black peppercorns and infused with smoke completes the profile of this famous French bottling. The imitation libation is garnished with a few twists of the peppermill and an aromatic rim of crushed candied violets.
Fascinated and inspired by the range of complex aromas and flavors coaxed from grapes during the winemaking process, Zimorski is exploring other wine-counterfeiting recipes. In the meantime, her funky and unexpected Syrah cocktail clone has been a popular choice at Café Atlantico. She recommends sipping it with food, or all by itself. “As long as someone’s enjoying it,” she says, “I’m happy.”
Faux Syrah, Syrah
Courtesy of Jill Zimorski of Café Atlantico, Washington, DC
2 ounces Hangar One Straight Vodka
1.5 ounces blackberry purée (Zimorski uses Les Vergers Boiron, or use fresh)
1 ounce black pepper- and smoke-infused syrup (see recipe below)
Juice from 1 lemon wedge
Coarsely crushed candied violets for garnish (Available through www.indiatree.com)
Freshly cracked pepper for garnish
Combine first four ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice, and shake well. Strain into a martini glass rimmed first with the black pepper/smoke-infused syrup, and then dipped into the candied violets. Garnish with five turns of a pepper grinder on a coarse setting.
Black Pepper- and Smoke-Infused Syrup
Zimorski uses a fan and tubing to blow smoke from smoldering pecan chips into the tightly wrapped container of syrup. Here, liquid smoke is substituted.
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
5-10 whole black peppercorns
Liquid smoke (pecan or hickory)
Combine sugar and water and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add black peppercorns. Let mixture steep for 1 hour. Remove peppercorns and add a few drops of liquid smoke, to taste. Makes 1 1/3 cup.
Kelly Magyarics is a freelance writer and wine educator in the Washington, DC area. She can be reached through her Web site, www.trywine.net.