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What We’re Into Right Now

A monthly installment covering what, where and how the editors of PUNCH are drinking. This month, the Cheers of airport bars, sessionable Martinis, a Brooklyn-made aperitivo liqueur and more.

Each month, we pull together a selection of drinking-related items that have, for one reason or another, grabbed the attention of PUNCH’s editors, who spend pretty much all day, every day surrounded by booze. Here’s what we’re into right now.

Domaine de Souch Jurançon Sec | Jon Bonné, Senior Contributing Editor

I have an irrational love of the dry wines of Jurançon, the historic appellation in the southwestern piedmont of the French Pyrenees. These are whites electrified: big, dramatic and, even when they reach 14 percent alcohol, still intensely acidic and fresh, like lemons shot through with 1,000 volts. They’re also roundly ignored, which is a shame, because they’re perfect with today’s acidity-etched style of cooking. On my recent trip to the region, I almost missed a chance to stop at Domaine de Souch, founded by Yvonne Hegoburu in the 1970s, which despite being a standard-bearer for the appellation seemed like it might be a bit too staid. Score one for second-guessing myself and making a last-minute call: Hegoburu has tapped two seasoned Bordeaux expats to farm biodynamically and make the wine, and this is country wine elevated to Corton-Charlemagne levels. It’s powerful and tensile, a different take on the pure citrus-rind style that defines the best Burgundies. The 2013 I tasted isn’t here yet, but the 2012 and 2011 are still around, in limited supply but—this is the tragedy of Jurançon—not exactly swarmed with demand.

Forthave Spirits RED Aperitivo | Talia Baiocchi, Editor in Chief

As many an American distillery has discovered, making Italian-style aperitivo liqueurs and amari is no easy task. It’s a balancing act that not only requires tweaking a blend of more than a dozen botanicals, but achieving an elusive balance between bitter and sweet. Not to mention the choices one makes in how to acquire that signature orange or red hue. We’ve done our due diligence in searching for those American examples that rival the complexity and balance of their Italian counterparts, many of which have the advantage of over a century of recipe-workshopping. But it’s Forthave Spirits, which launched this past January in Brooklyn, that, for me, makes the best non-Italian red bitter on the market. A blend of 13 botanicals, including chamomile, rose and orange, colored naturally with purple carrots, it has a purity to its flavor—no confected or facsimile flavors here—and a perfectly balanced astringency that recalls a slightly drier, more delicate Campari. Bonus point for excellent branding. It’s perfection on the rocks with soda, or in a Negroni Sbagliato or Americano.

Aval Cider | Megan Krigbaum, Contributing Editor

I was one of those kids who never had Fruit Roll-Ups or Ding Dongs and certainly not sugary juice pouches, like Capri Sun, in my lunch box. But once a year, the co-op where my mom got all of her bulk stuff had no-sugar-added apple cider juice boxes, and we bought cases of the stuff. This Breton cider, which showed up in the States last year, reminds me so much of that. It’s made from four kinds of organic apples, which make for a six percent ABV, juicy, round and mostly dry cider—with enough natural residual sugar to make it compellingly chug-worthy. And it comes in wee 11.2-ounce bottles—just enough for lunch.

Isla Nena Café at Antonio Rivera Rodríguez Airport, Vieques | Allison Hamlin, Social Media Editor

Airport bars are the worst bars: sterile, impersonal, aggressively kitschy. The food is usually bad. The drinks are worse. But in Vieques, a tiny island off the coast of Puerto Rico’s mainland, I have found airport bar Xanadu. You’d never find Isla Nena Café unless someone pointed you in the direction of the parking lot. Out of sight, the bar is little more than a corrugated box kitchen, a cluster of picnic tables and five bar stools, all covered with a tent. Festooned with a Green Bay Packers banner, a lot of drink-related neon signage and a chatty pet cockatoo, the impression is like Cheers, on island time. Vieques’ wild horses may make an appearance in the parking lot. And, breaking the mold, Isla Nena makes the best BEC I’ve had outside of a Brooklyn bodega. Their hot-sauce-spiked Bloody Mary is served in a Solo cup, which you will probably be encouraged to take with you on your Cessna flight out of town.

Session Martinis | Chloe Frechette, Assistant Editor

The Martini is not the first drink that springs to mind when it comes to session cocktails—those that can be consumed over an extended period of time without immediate over intoxication. But in its wetter renditions—the Fifty-Fifty, say—it can be exactly this. My preferred session Martini of the moment, the Astoria, might more accurately be described as a reverse Martini: two parts vermouth to one part gin, served with an olive. While some iterations call for the London Dry style of gin, I prefer the Old Tom version printed in the 1935 Old Waldorf Astoria Bar Book—the subtle sweetness of the gin offers a mellow quality that makes it the most sessionable Martini of all.

The Mezcaletti | Bianca Prum, Managing Editor

Richard Boccato’s Mezcaletti, on the menu at Williamsburg’s Fresh Kills and the new Bar Clacson in Downtown LA, is the embodiment of that old “whole is greater than the sum of its parts” thing. Equal pours of mezcal and Meletti plus two dashes of orange bitters, built in glass over a rock and then stirred, come together to form something smoky, bitter and rich—and unreasonably delicious. Though the sound of it might conjure fall vibes, the end result actually defies season, making it a year-round menu staple on both coasts: one I’ll be drinking through spring and summer.

The State Street Bloody Mary | Lizzie Munro, Senior Editor

As much as I love brunch, I don’t remember the last time I ordered a Bloody Mary. Nor do I remember ever having one that I actually finished, let alone enjoyed. That was, at least, until I chatted with Brian Bartels for our “Masters of X” column and tried his State Street Bloody Mary. Bartels does a number of things to this drink to kick it over the edge (layering lots of difference salt and spice notes, rolling the drink rather than shaking), but the most surprising decision—and the one that makes this version so palatable—is that he omits the citrus altogether. Instead, the astringency in the drink comes from mezcal, which is used directly in the base mix before being blended with the spirit of your choice (vodka, gin, more mezcal—you get the idea). Real talk: This is easily the most balanced, complex Bloody I’ve had to date. I like it so much, in fact, that stocking some of that base mix in my fridge at all times suddenly sounds like a pretty enlightened idea.

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