display | more...

It was in the bar of a small hotel in Ticino that I drank my first Vicar or whatever.

Business – I was an agent for an Italian publishing house – had brought me to the district, for the reclusive author Silas Flannery had rented a chalet in the area to complete his latest novel and I was to find him and negotiate for the publication rights to it. I would strike out after luncheon, walking the roads and forests of the canton, attempting to flush out any rumor or scent of the man. Upon returning, wind-chilled and tired, to the hotel, I made it my habit to stop in the bar and take in the warmth of a brandy.

Afternoons, a young woman occupied a seat at one end of the bar. It was obvious that she was carrying on some coy flirtation with the bartender; the meeting of their eyes would cause the faintest hint of a smile to form on her lips. Between these charged glimpses, she took delicate sips from a heavy conical glass of some gilded cocktail I could not identify.

After observing their tacit dialogue for maybe a week, one afternoon I returned early from a disappointing interview with the proprietress of a local dairy. I stood at one end of the zinc bar, warming a snifter of brandy over a candle, and noted her absence. An hour later, she arrived, wearing an ankle-length black wool skirt, her auburn hair a halo. She nodded to the bartender, and this once, I was able to discreetly watch him mix the drink for her.

The next day I went to the bar directly following my luncheon. The bartender at first refused to confirm my description of the young woman. However, once I made it clear that I had no interest in her name or family, but only her preferred cocktail, the application of a few francs brought me into possession of the recipe, inexplicably named the Vicar or whatever. While disappointed with the resolution of the matter of the manuscript, Signor Garamond found some consolation in the acquisition of this recipe for the cocktail.

Pour ingredients over crushed ice and shake.
Strain into cocktail glass.
Garnish with a (thoroughly rinsed) maraschino cherry.

This slightly golden elixir is a marriage of two liqueurs from opposite ends of Europe. The honey in the Drambuie lends its sweetness to the cherry bouquet of the kirschwasser; its spices and smoky peat supports the almond flavor of the cherrystones. The vodka provides a neutral base in which these liqueurs may achieve a symbiosis.