Summer has finally come and few things are better than enjoying warm Italian nights sipping a well-made cocktail somewhere nice, possibly in the countryside where the air is cooler, surrounded by trees and flowers. But, would you ever consider adding a little olive oil to your Mojito or Frozen Daiquiri?
It’s not something completely new: a few years ago, Massimo D’Addezio (the award-winning bartender of Rome’s Stravinskij Bar at the luxury Hotel de Russie), created a couple of “oil” cocktails; he replicated some of the most iconic long drinks and cocktails with a hint of extra virgin olive oil for the regional consortium Uliveti del Lazio. The classic Bloody Mary was enriched with fresh datterino tomato, green peppers and extra virgin olive oil. This was considered some sort of provocation, as olive oil is not seen as common pairing with alcohol: in practice, D’Addezio had broken the classic beverage rules.
But he is not the only person to consider extra virgin an interesting – if daring – ingredient for original and intriguing cocktails.
To celebrate its 10th Anniversary, Pandolea – the Italian Women Olive Oil Producers’ Association – organized a number of events and meetings. These included an interesting conference and an olive oil cooking competition for the Hospitality Training Institutes’ students. They also asked the young and brilliant female bartender Valentina Bertello (currently working at Guerrini dal 1958 winebar in Rome) to create two brand new cocktails using the members’ olive oils.
Both were imaginative and fantastic drinks: the first one was a refreshing blend of dark Rum, fresh mint, lime and pineapple juice, crushed cardamom seeds and a great extra virgin from Sicily that was sprayed on the glass just at the moment of serving. The second one was made by Gin, Campari, Crème de Cassis, lemon and pink grapefruit juice, sage and a more delicate extra virgin from Abruzzo region.
Meanwhile, researchers at Perugia’s University Food Science Department at the Faculty of Agriculture, led by prof. Maurizio Servili, are studying new ways to exploit the components of olive oil. They may be able to find the way to isolate and extract only the polyphenol antioxidants to create completely natural bitters to add to drinks or non-alcoholic bitter aperitifs and sodas. They are currently looking for an enlightened entrepreneur who would want to sponsor the project.
Last year, Maria Provenza – a young female olive oil producer from Battipaglia (in the Campania region, not far the beautiful Costiera and Sorrento) launched the first Italian Bar à Huile. The launch was to celebrate the complete renovation of her oil mill Torretta, which she inherited from her family.
Olive oil based cocktails created by the barman Mimmo Villano were served in the mill’s courtyard along with small bites and typical fried finger food, under the cooling shade of the ancient olive trees, with old milling tools used to support tables and counter-tops. Blondy Mary was the “oily” version of a classic Bloody Mary made using local yellow tomato sauce by Maida and some drops of Torretta’s excellent Diesis PoD Colline Salernitane extra virgin. ‘Molito’ (which also means “milled” in Italian) was a Mediterranean version of the classic Cuban cocktail made by muddling lime pieces, fresh basil leaves instead of spearmint and a less intense extra virgin olive oil (Torretta produces four different labels, three of them belong to the PDO Colline Salernitane) mixed with white and dark Rhum.
This year, the Torretta’s Bar à huile is coming back on July 18th, August 2nd and September 12th with a similar formula and some changes. Barman Jan Bruno Di Giacomo is proposing new cocktails like Oli Spritz, a new version of the Spritz. The typical Italian long drink originally created in Veneto region based on sparkling white wine, a bitter liqueur such as Aperol and fresh orange, is modified in Di Giacomo’s version by adding some Diesis extra virgin olive oil. Another interesting tipple proposed is Frozen Oil Radicchio – featuring dark Rum, lemon juice, sugar syrup, ice and PDO extra virgin olive oil with some fresh leaves of red chicory — a nice twist on a classic frozen daiquiri.
Di Giacomo’s cocktails will be served along the delicious finger food prepared by the young Michelin starred chef Vitantonio Lombardo (Locanda Severino in Caggiano, not far from Battipaglia where the oil mill is). At the Olio Taste guests will have the chance to engage in olive oil sensory analysis. There will also be a workshop on new ways to communicate and promote extra virgin olive oil in an innovative way, featuring experts and journalists.
Maria Torretta says: “I wanted to be able to find an out of the nordinary, amusing way to talk about extra virgin olive oil, making this product to be appreciated and perceived with a fresh look.”