This March, we're taking you on a tour of the Old World, with a focus on how traditional European dishes are influencing modern cuisine.
"In Italy, they walk around with a ladle of grappa and hit it with coffee," Jared Sippel says.
But for the chef behind the highly anticipated Italienne, coming to New York City later this spring, a sturdy cart carrying delicate bottles of grappa, amari, Chartreuse and more will do.
As much as Sippel, a former chef at Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder, Colorado, is bent on reviving the meld of French-German-Italian cooking common along the northern borderline of Italy at Italienne, he and his beverage director, Travis Oler, want to bring back the art of the digestif, the wonderful wind down after a meal.
"It's not that they're not prevalent in the U.S., but they're almost of a forgotten past time," Sippel continues. "People would go in the billiard room with brandy and good cigars. What got me started on it was that no matter where you were, everyone had their own."
At Frasca, Sippel remembers sipping Meletti, the first taste a darker, bitter one and the next pour lighter. In Puglia, the families he stayed with gathered ingredients to make their own after-dinner drinks. Now he wants to bring that culture, that story of the land, the people and what they drink to his restaurant—and serve it neat.
"With the local cocktail culture, you're seeing amaro and eau-de-vie, but in the States, you're not drinking it on its own or tasting all the notes," Oler says. "We want to get back to the producer."
So while the two are amassing their collection for the restaurant, they've shared their picks for a few favorite after-dinner sippers.
① Amaro Nonino ($45)
"Very well known and very good," Sippel says of this iconic amaro. He grew to love the herb-laced alpine concoction, which has used the same family recipe since 1897 after researching in Friuli.
② Guillaumette L'Authentique Génépi ($26)
"It's very telling of what Provence is about," Oler describes of the small-batch herbal liqueur (read: only 5,500 liters produced annually). "You see it has a thyme sprig in the bottle."
③ Pear Williams Purkhart Eau-de-Vie ($27)
"Alto Adige is famous for apples and pears, and the producer Purkhart is in Austria," Sippel says. These facts are apparent in this pear brandy—made only with creamy Williams pears from Italy and then distilled in Austria—and show the melting pot of Austria and Italy up north.
④ Grappa Torcolato Jacopo Poli ($75)
"I worked in Veneto, and they're famous for this product," Sippel explains. "For grappa, they have really unique, beautiful bottles." This elegant, long-stemmed bottle is the vessel for the dried, then pressed grape pomace.
⑤ Chartreuse Green V.E.P. Liqueur ($160)
"The history of Chartreuse distillery is unbelievable. Where do you even begin?" Oler muses. "Distilled by Carthusian monks since 1737 from a recipe given to them by a marshal of King Henry VI over a hundred years prior, the elixir was said to promote long life."
⑥ St. Agrestis New York Amaro ($40)
"This was kind of new to us, but it came highly recommended," Oler says of this Gowanus original. Made with organic cane sugar and aged in Van Brunt whiskey barrels, it's the love letter to amaro from sommeliers Fairlie McCollough and Nicholas Finger. "You're here, so you would be drinking a local amaro," Oler explains.