Roberto Bava, is a modern day Renaissance man. A believer in the finer things in life: chocolate, aromatized wines and principles of futurism. Along with his brothers he continues the lineage to a family tradition in the wine and spirits industry using the fruits of some 6,200 hectacres of vineyards around Piedmont.
From this lineage comes the likes of Barolo Chinato, Americano and Vermouth di Torino, all of which date back to 1891 at Cocchi. You might be familiar with the uber presence of “the spritz” in bottles that’s served in cafes and bars across Europe. The marketing dollars behind these bastard children of aperitivi made with aromatized wines have moved a product that’s so far off from the original recipes that they are often made with more water than wine! The use of the likes of tree barks, spices and aromatics with DOC and DOCG grapes (not water) are what make a true apertivo, and Cocchi’s tasting room does an excellent job at leading you through these scents by presenting jars of dried ingredients and extracts used in their products.
Several stories exist regarding the creation of Italian Vermouth. These include Giulio Cocchi, a Florentine man with an entrepreneurial streak that relocated to Asti and began production of wine. Giulio Cocchi is also known for his creations Americano, a muscato di asti grape blended with herbs and spices, and Barolo Chinato, made with DOCG Barolo grapes, rhubarb, ginger, quinine; previously discussed here.
Recently, we visited with Roberto Bava in Cocconato to learn more about the products and history of Cocchi, and of course to do a tasting! Contrary to what you might think, Vermouth of Turino, Americano and Barolo Chinato can be drunk neat, simply with soda or tonic water and citrus twist, or used as ingredients in cocktails. When asked about cocktails using these spirits Roberto referred to a classic method adopoted by the Futurists in the 1920s. Futurism was, and it seems – still is, a mostly Italian movement that promotes separatism, art, gastronomy, industrialization, movement away from traditional Italian cuisine (like pasta) and creating new forms of expression in Italian for globally known words; such as cocktail (polibibita), bar (quisibeve) and dessert (peralzarsi).
In the 70′s the Bava Family took over Cocchi and through Roberto’s work in pairing the great chocolates of Turino with Barlo Chinato from Cocchi the idea of drinking this aromatized wine after dinner was rejuvinated.
Today, Barolo Chinato is a staple in specialty wine stores, not to mention a rediscovered addition to craft cocktails, across the world. The Futurists used Barolo Chinato in a cocktail called Decisone:
- 1 part dark rum
- 1 part Barolo Chinato
- a dash of Mandarin Liquor
A more popular recipe is a negroni:
- 3/4 oz barolo chinato
- 3/4 oz Cointreau
- 1 1/2 oz London Dry Gin
As for Americano and Vermouth di Turino, below are some recipes we’d recommend.
- 1 oz Vermouth di Turino
- 1 oz Campari
- Club Soda
- Garnish with lemon twist or orange wheel
- 3/4 ounce gin
- 3/4 ounce lemon juice
- 3/4 ounce Cointreau
- 3/4 ounce Cocchi Aperitivo Americano
- Scant bar-spoon-ful quality absinthe (see note).
- A garnish is unnecessary, but different recipes call for either a twist of lemon or a real maraschino cherry.
4 cl. American cocci
2 cl. orange juice
0.5 cl. sugar syrup
- 7.5 cl. tonic
- Garnish with an orange slice
Next time you find yourself in a bar or cafe in Italy or in your local liquor store back in the States, get inspired and try some of these products for yourself! You won’t regret the decision.