You'll no longer have to buy a plane ticket to get in on the cocktails at Seattle's Essex: Owners Brandon Pettit and Molly Wizenberg (a.k.a. Orangette) will be sharing their favorite recipes with us, every other week. Drink up, people.
Today: Molly and Brandon introduce us to the Safe Passage, or, the perfect way to start drinking amari.
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Before we opened Delancey, we studied up, eating pizza from New York to Los Angeles, Phoenix, Portland, and many points in between. Of the dozens of pies we tasted, one of the most memorable was the clam pizza with chiles and parsley from Franny’s of Brooklyn, a restaurant that, if we could, we’d hit up once or twice a week. When Franny’s founders, Andrew Feinberg and Francine Stephens, published a cookbook this summer and went on tour, we leapt at the opportunity to host a celebratory dinner for them at Delancey.
Of course, it can be daunting (scary? terrifying? paralyzing?) to cook for cooks who’ve inspired you, and to smooth the way, we wanted to serve a great cocktail. We handed the Franny’s cookbook to Essex bar manager Kenaniah Bystrom and asked him to use it as a springboard, and what he came up with was a nod to Franny’s “Sweet Olive” cocktail, a combination of Meletti amaro, Aperol, olive brine, and prosecco.
Niah’s version swaps out Meletti for Amaro Nardini, a caramelly liqueur infused with bitter orange and peppermint. (Amaro Nardini is also, as it happens, Brandon’s after-dinner sip of choice: try a thimbleful after your next big meal, and you might well wind up with a new habit. In general, amari, the bitter herbal liqueurs that Italians drink after dinner, are an acquired taste, but they’re worth the effort.)
If you don’t have Nardini, you could use any amaro with prominent orange or citrus flavors: Zucca, Amaro Nonino, or, of course, Meletti. And while you could probably use any olive brine, Niah prefers the brine of Castelvetrano olives, which are particularly sweet and balance nicely with amari. He also adds a tiny kick of lemon juice for acidity, and a Castelvetrano garnish.
The result is a little salty, a little sweet, and gently, very gently, bitter. We call it “Safe Passage,” and after it ushered us through that important evening, we made it a permanent item on the summer menu.
Safe Passage Recipe Compliments of Kenaniah Bystrom
1 ounce Amaro Nardini 1/4 ounce Aperol 1/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice 1/4 ounce brine from castelvetrano olives 2 1/2 ounces Prosecco, or other sparkling wine 2 Castelvetrano olives, for garnish
Brandon and Molly met because of a mutual interest in food - or, more specifically, when Brandon read Molly's food blog Orangette and sent her an e-mail that included some very effective compliments. The better part of a decade later, they co-own and run the restaurant Delancey and its sibling Essex, in Seattle. Brandon is the chef of both, and when he's not manning the wood-burning oven, he likes to make things from scratch that more sane people would probably buy, like mustard, vinegars, pretzels, and obscurely flavored liqueurs. Molly is the manager / Organizer of All Things at Delancey and Essex, and she is also the author of the New York Times bestseller A Homemade Life and the forthcoming memoir Delancey. They have a young daughter named June, who is excitedly crawling toward the refrigerator as Molly types this sentence, and two dogs named Jack and Alice.