Pier Paolo Pasolini and Maria Callas celebrate the completion of Medea.
I can tell a lot about my general sense of well-being by the way I react to the end of summer. If I look at it as offering a new start, then everything is relatively good. But if I view it with dread, than I know anxiety is lurking, and I need to do something to make things more right. This year dread is coming out on top. I’m not sure why, exactly, but instead of trying to analyze why I’m anxious and vaguely miserable, I’ve decided the way to start making things right is by inventing a new cocktail.
Another problem with summer’s end, one I have no control over, is that it’s the end of beautiful fresh, local fruits and vegetables. There’s no dire need for fruit anxiety just yet, since there’s still plenty of good stuff around, including the little Tristar variety of strawberries, a day-neutral type cultivated from a wild variety, which keeps producing late into the summer. I’m grateful for it.
Fruit juice and booze can be a beautiful combination, as long as it’s not too sweet. Prosecco, glamorous and affordable, is a wonderful bubbly base for mixing with fruit. Not that I’m the first one to think of this; the Bellini certainly is famous enough, and I love it, but right now I really wanted to do something with the candy-fragrant pint of little day-neutral strawberries I just picked up at the Union Square market.
There are all kinds of prosecco around, and even when I’m mixing it with fruit I want to start out with something good. The towns of Valdobbiadene and Conegliano, north of Treviso, make up the primary prosecco district, so I always look for one of those names, or both of them, on the label (prosecco, by the way, is the name of the grape as well as of the beverage). Prosecco produced outside this main region, in the flat lands, tends to be a little boring. Mionetto is an accomplished Prosecco producer that makes various types, some gently bubbly, some sparklier, and with varying degrees of dryness (there’s even a still prosecco). I really like Mionetto’s prosecco brut, with its ample bubbles, lack of sweetness, and subtle mineral taste.
I started designing my cocktail with fresh strawberry puree mixed with Mionetto prosecco brut. That was good, but it just missed being exciting. Did it need sweetness? A touch of sour? More heft? I wasn’t sure, but I decided on adding a splash of limoncello, and I’m happy to tell you that pulled it all together. So here’s my new cocktail, an aperitivo, really. I call it the fragolimone. It has kind of a girly taste and look, but it’s not sweet, and the added booze hit from the limoncello is welcome (maybe that was the ultimate fix). I don’t know if my fragolimone will sooth my transition into fall, but it certainly improved an evening.
1 pint Tristar strawberries (or another late-summer variety), hulled, plus 5 nice looking strawberries left whole for garnish
About a tablespoon sugar, if needed
5 teaspoons Limoncello (or a little more to taste), chilled
1 bottle Mionetto prosecco brut, chilled
Put the hulled strawberries in a food processor along with about 1/2 cup of cold water. Purée until very smooth, and pour through a fine-mesh strainer. Taste the purée. If you’d like it sweeter, add a little sugar. Chill for at least 2 hours.
Chill five champagne flutes. Add 1½ tablespoons of strawberry purée to each glass. Add a teaspoon (or a little more to taste) of limoncello to each one, and then fill the glass with the prosecco. Garnish each drink with a strawberry. Serve right away.