Seattle winters are more cool gray drizzle than snow, and our rainy Decembers are mostly indistinguishable from our Novembers and Januarys. But for people of the spirited persuasion, December in Seattle means one thing: Rob Roy’s Advent Calendar cocktail menu. Twenty five different drinks, holiday themed (or at least wintery), and many only available on their designated days as they require special ingredients and preparation. Leaving the best for last, December 24th is commemorated with the Chartreuse Blazer –a sibling of the infamous Blue Blazer, involving flaming streams of chartreuse poured long distances between metal mugs.
This year though, an earlier recipe in the calendar caught my attention. I’m always on the lookout for oddball combinations of ingredients, and my eyes popped when I saw sherry, Meletti, gin, and Ancho Reyes all in the same drink! Dubbed the Pizzicato Passage, the recipe is the brainchild of Rob Roy owner and all around mixology badass Anu Elford. In case you’re wondering, pizzicato is the Italian term for “plucked string,” a stringed instrument playing technique.
Looking at the Pizzicato Passage recipe below, it upends the whole Base Spirit + Modifiers pattern so common in most drinks. Both the main ingredients (volume-wise) are less than the typical 40 percent; the combined two ounces of sherry and Meletti come in at only 25 percent ABV. The choice of sherry is important here — amontillado is dry and puckerish, so don’t reach for your bottle of PX or cream sherry unless you want a sugar bomb of a drink.
The half-ounce of gin is really here in a supporting role, boosting the overall ABV. You might experiment with other base spirits like tequila or pisco in place of the gin. Ancho Reyes is a chili liqueur made from a cane base. It’s quite sippable and not at all overpowering. It pops up frequently in Rob Roy’s cocktails, with good reason — Anu’s husband, Chris Elford, is an Ancho Reyes brand ambassador. And for sure don’t omit the chocolate bitters. In fact, I like to add quite a bit more than Anu’s recipe calls for.
This drink is a symphony of flavors: The Ancho Reyes and Meletti mash together old and new world sugar and spices. Their sweetness is tempered and by the dry, bracing amontillado sherry. The word that comes to mind is “lush.” If you don’t already have Ancho Reyes on hand, it’s worth picking up for this drink alone. And big thanks to Rob Roy bar GM Jesse Cyr for sharing the recipe with me originally.
Pizzicato Passage (Rob Roy, Seattle)
- 1 oz. Amontillado sherry
- 1 oz. Meletti
- 0.5 oz. London Dry Gin
- 0.5 oz. Ancho Reyes
- 2 dashes Chocolate Bitters (Rob Roy uses Scrappy’s)
Stir with ice, strain into old fashioned glass with large ice cube.