Up to now, this column has focused on remixing classic American cocktails – the Manhattan, the Dark & Stormy, the French 75 – with a few side trips into less-serious fare (like last month’s root-beer float). But with this installment, I take a deep breath and jump into the abyss … of girly drinks.
I’m speaking of that category of mixed drinks that are often prepared in 5-gallon buckets (trust: I worked in that kind of bar in college) and served in plastic cups to overly inebriated sorority girls. But as terrible as those Sea Breezes and Blue Hawaiians and Long Island Iced Teas can be, this month I felt a weird desire to try and renovate the reputation of my particular college downfall: the Fuzzy Navel. Who knows why? (I blame it on those softball-sized peaches at Publix right now.)
I’m not such a snob that I can’t admit that I still like that sweet peachy flavor, and hey, sometimes you’re not in Venice and you can’t go to Harry’s Bar for a genuine Bellini. (Yes, my unsubstantiated theory is that the Fuzzy Navel is a sorely bastardized version of Giuseppe Cipriani’s concoction of prosecco and white-peach puree.) In other words, lighten up: If you like it, drink it. But make it better.
So, I made it better, or at least grew it up a bit. This version lacks the thick syrupy texture of the original, whether you add a bit of sparkling water and serve it over ice or strain it neat into a coupe, and it dials back the sweetness – mostly thanks to Van Gogh Cool Peach vodka, the rare flavored vodka that doesn’t taste like industrial chemicals and cheap lollipops. Balanced out with lightly bitter blood-orange Aperol and golden sour-sweet Lillet Blanc, then topped with aromatic peach bitters, this is a fruity drink no one should be embarrassed to enjoy.
Before I jump into the recipe, a word on ice: Very trendy recently are whiskey stones, stainless-steel chillers and extra-large ice blocks or spheres, all of which are meant to eliminate or reduce dilution of your drink. But some drinks need that ice melt. When a recipe calls for you to shake a drink with ice, the dilution is intended; sometimes (as in this drink) that water is almost the only nonalcoholic element of a cocktail. So if you’re not sipping single malt, take it easy, killer, and don’t skimp on the (filtered-water, please) ice.
2 ounces peach schnapps
4 ounces orange juice
Fill a rocks glass halfway with ice. Add schnapps. Add orange juice. Stir well. Down the hatch, princess.
1.5 ounces Van Gogh peach vodka
1 ounce Aperol
1 ounce Lillet Blanc
half-ounce fresh-squeezed orange juice
soda water (optional)
3 drops peach bitters
Pour vodka, Aperol, Lillet and orange juice into a shaker with ice, and shake thoroughly. Strain into a rocks glass over cracked ice and add a dash (maybe an ounce) of soda water, or strain into a coupe glass (no ice or soda). Add three drops of peach bitters and serve.