The Art Of Glass Warfare: Cocchi Vermouth
It’s election time here in the United Kingdom and we’re all loving it, I can tell you. The insincere emoting, the blatant economic bribes to favoured demographics, the tedious internecine tribal posturing – all of it enriches our lives. This year’s manifestos have been a particular highlight of bland language and vague promises to build up our fragile isle.
Politicians write bland manifestos. Fact. If you want a fun one, you need the artists. Any of them – Dadaists, situationists, surrealists. Any. They wrote provocative treatises designed to scandalise and provoke the dull middle classes from their slumber and usually promised to smash the country into the ground, before the reconstruction could begin.
No one wrote better pamphlets than those cheeky Italian weirdos, the Futurists. Formed by firebrand Filippo Marinetti in 1908, his manifestos called for the destruction of public establishments such as libraries, museums, academies and cities themselves. They worshipped the machine, speed and a total break from the past. But these chaps were Italian – so they were worried about what was for dinner (and afters). La Cucina Futurista – The Futurist Cookbook – was published by Marinetti in 1932. Chicken with Ball Bearings, anyone? The theatrical and multisensory approach to dining – where oxidizers and lights, for example, would be more important than tradition – now resonates with us as contemporary, thanks to Blumenthal and Adrià. So what of the Futurist’s love of cocktails?
Having re-named every dish to break any etymological sense of warm resonance, they rebranded ‘cocktails’ with their robot-like logic: polibibite or ‘multi-drinks’. Now, thanks to Italy’s superior vermouth brand, Asti Giulio Cocchi, you can mix mixology with ideology. Expert barman Fulvio Piccinino tirelessly researched museums and museums, visited antique dealers and collectors and experimented on himself to produce ‘Futurist Mixology: Polibibite – The Autarkic Italian Answer to The Cocktails of the 1930s’, published by Cocchi’s own imprint – CocchiBooks. Firstly conceived as a recipe book for other barmen, this handsome hardback collects stories, anecdotes, details of Marinetti & co.’s cuisine with details of 18 bizarre polibibite. Whilst other definitive Italian liqueurs are, of course, featured such as Campari, Cedrata Tassoni, Luxardo, Nardini, Pallini and Strega, Cocchi features strongly in many.
Created in Asti, in 1891 when a young pastry chef became fascinated with the pairing of food and wine, the brand produced aromatic-infused wines – a Barolo Chinato and Aperitivo Americano – which gained worldwide popularity. Now owned by the Bava Family, a highly-awarded wine producing dynasty, traditional techniques are continued to craft the magical blend of 12 different distinctive aromatics across five variants of vermouth.
So now you can make your own polibibita, such as the Rigeneratore, a ‘fertilizer’-type concoction, one of their Guerra in letto or ‘war in bed’: calorific cocktails designed to provide aphrodisiacal energy to make Futurist babies. It’s served in a champagne flute with half a banana poking out of it and is a legitimate ice-breaker at any social gathering. One suspects that the Futurists would probably hate to be celebrated as a historical source of drink-based pleasure, preferring to utilise today’s technology to dismantle any connection with our culture and history, in the process reducing us to theoretical beings, to be manipulated into their autistic version of ‘perfection’. Yes, I can’t wait for the ‘Silicon Valley Cocktail Book’, either.
Cocchi Vermouth di Torino (RRP £19.99) and Cocchi Americano (RRP £18.99) are available from The Whisky Exchange, Amathus, Selfridges, Soho Wines, Drinkshop and leading independent wine merchants.