The Bitter-Sweet Aperitifs and Indulgent Digestifs of Master Mixologist Dave Marzano

Fascinated by the relationship between civilization and spirits, Marzano relates the array of flavors in aromatized wines to the diversity of the world.

You know the calm-inducing sounds that lull you into fuzzy, euphoric relaxation? Perhaps it’s a particularly gentle voice, the clinking of beads or the poppy fizz of a freshly cracked Champagne bottle. My own mental encyclopedia of such calming sensations contains mostly food-related noises: sizzling, simmering or the first drop of wine hitting the bottom of a glass. The second one such sound wave strokes my eardrum, my eyelids immediately weigh a thousand pounds and a puddle of drool starts dripping down the side of my gaping mouth. I know… it’s a beautiful image. The pitter patter of ice cubes sloshing around in the frothy bath of a cocktail shaker also inspires such flattering transformation, especially if it’s in the hands of master mixologist and beverage manager Dave Marzano of Pentimento Restaurant in Stony Brook.

Surrounded by a rainbow of bottles including rare liquors like Kina L’Avion d’Or or Allspice Dram, Marzano creates concoctions of sweet aroma inspired by European bitters, aperitifs and digestifs. Not only does Pentimento boast an incredible selection of wines from small-scale producers throughout Italy, California and Long Island, but it also features an array of before and after dinner drinks that will stimulate your salivary glands and soothe a rumblin’ tummy. Marzano creates complex dimensions of flavor and aroma using aromatized wines in unique cocktails.

Marzano knowledge gained through wine courses with the American Society of Sommeliers allows him to suggest the perfect pairing for any dish. Fascinated by fermentation, his interest in aromatized wines was inspired by time spent working alongside professional forager and former sous chef of Mirabelle Tavern Kyle Fiasconaro. “He did so many cool things and incorporated so many unique flavors in the kitchen, so I wanted to step up my bar game and match the flavor caliber of the kitchen,” Marzano says. Such chemistry of flavors certainly complements the noteworthy traditional Italian cuisine of chef and owner Dennis Young at Pentimento.
Fascinated by the relationship between civilization and spirits, Marzano relates the array of flavors in aromatized wines to the diversity of the world. “There are so many different flavors, textures and colors. I mean, look at our bar,” as he names bottle after bottle of rare bitters. His West Village cocktail, named after the New York City neighborhood home to the bar where Marzano first tried Carpano Antica sweet vermouth, is the perfect showcase of Marzano’s in-depth understanding of aromatized wines. After a full explanation of the origins, fermentation process and flavor profile of each ingredient I indulged in what is certainly the best take on a Manhattan I’ve ever tasted—The West Village. Cheers!

Dave Marzano’s West Village

Ingredients:
2 ounces Widow Jame (rye whiskey)
1 ounce Carpano Antica (sweet vermouth)
1 drop Fernet Branca (bitters)

Preparation:

Pour the rye whiskey and sweet vermouth into a mixing glass with ice cubes. Stir well. Rinse a chilled coupe with 1 drop of Fernet Branca. Strain mixture into coupe. Garnish with orange zest.

More to come on beer, wine, food events and the passionate chef Dennis Young of Pentimento Restaurant.

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Cristina Cosentino is a food journalist with background in Italian studies, dedicated to sustainable agriculture, food policy and Italian gastronomy.