Above and Beyond

By Ed Sikov

Cocktail Chatter

My brother-in-law introduced me to a new liqueur last week - well, new to me, anyway. It's an Italian aperitif called Aperol, and it's quite delicious. Think Campari, but with less alcohol. According to Wikipedia, Aperol's flavors include bitter orange, rhubarb, gentian and cinchona.

What's that you say? You've never even heard of either gentian or cinchona? Well, my dears! Step out of ignorance and into the light of knowledge! (Truth alert: I had never heard of them either and had to look them up on - where else? - Wikipedia. Gentian is derived from the root of a flowering Alpine herb; cinchona is an Andean plant that serves as a source of quinine.)

My aforementioned brother-in-law, Paul, used Aperol as one ingredient in a delicious cocktail named "Il Sorpasso." He'd found the recipe in the New York Times. Perhaps needless to say, I was confident I could improve on the recipe, so I've been experimenting with proportions in an effort to make the cocktail less sugary. I've come up with a more balanced drink - to my taste, at least. But for history's sake, I've included the original recipe as well. In short, I eliminated the extra sugar but kept the original honey. I also dislike club soda because it has an unnecessary touch of salt, so I use sparkling water instead - and less of it. Finally, I find recipes that lurch from ounces to teaspoons and back again to be a huge pain in the ass. We aren't all human conversion calculators! So in my version I use standard kitchen equipment: a measuring cup and a teaspoon.

I'm certain you're all wondering what "il sorpasso" means in English. Translated without regard to the way any of us actually talk, "il sorpasso" means "that which is surpassing." In consultation with my multilingual pal Steve, who lives in Rome when he's not living in Paris (don't you just hate him already?), I've come up with a looser, more fluid (if you will) translation: "Above and Beyond." This cocktail is certainly that. It's got the booziness of bourbon, the bitter orange of Aperol, a whiff of herbs, and a faint kiss of honey. It's a winner.

"Il Sorpasso" (From the New York Times)

1 oz Aperol

1 oz bourbon

3/4 tsp honey

1 tsp lemon juice

1/4 tsp sugar

2 oz club soda

Combine everything but the club soda in a cocktail shaker and shake; pour over ice, then add the club soda and an orange slice to garnish.

The Above and Beyond (my adaptation)

1/4 cup Aperol

1/4 cup bourbon

3/4 tsp honey

1 tsp lemon juice

sparkling water (it only needs a bit to provide fizz)

In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine all the ingredients except the sparkling water; shake. Strain and pour over fresh ice, then add club soda and - if you're fond of pieces of fruit batting against your face when you sip - an orange slice for garnish.

Ed Sikov is the author of the e-book, "The Boys' and Girls' Little Book of Alcohol," a novel with recipes based on his Cocktail Chatter column.

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