Galliano: The Long, Tall Sipper

The seventh installment on those neglected bottles at the back of the bar.

After researching seven articles in my series exploring the cool bottles on the back bar, I'm starting to understand why you always see the classics but never see them move. In marketing, it's all about the story. Too many of these admittedly delicious bench-warming spirits try to sell the same romance. Web sites for brands such as Drambuie, Galliano, and Campari bombard you with romantic stories of ancient monasteries and secret recipes, or something far more fantastic, like amulets, heroes, elixirs, hot chicks, and whatnot. All of these marketing campaigns slow down your computer; none tell you what to do with the booze.No bottle ranks as much of an underachiever as Galliano, the golden Italian herbal liqueur in the long, tall bottle. By all accounts, Galliano's marketing must be a staggering success; taverns, hotel bars, and cocktail lounges alike all stock the liqueur. Look for it wedged in some far-off corner, too tall to fit under the shelves. But have you ever seen it in action? Too bad.Galliano doesn't deserve to languish in the corner. It lets loose like a complex perfume, with the same layers of initial impact, makeup, and lingering impression. Galliano's top notes—candied fennel seed, star anise—hit you immediately. After that come the middle notes, smells of hazier, subtler herbs and spices, as in some of the liqueur's more complex herbal brethren such as yellow Chartreuse. Then there's the base note, the indelible scent of vanilla that sets Galliano apart from the rest of the romantic-liqueur set and makes it an intriguing addition to cocktails.It's a crying shame that Galliano is famous for one drink, the Harvey Wallbanger—your basic screwdriver with a float of the golden liqueur. I can say that Galliano surely makes the concoction of vodka and orange juice more bearable, but why throw good liquor after bad? Screwdrivers gross me out; the drink takes a perfectly sweet and tangy juice and waters it down into something that tastes turned, adding a whole lot of nothing. Harvey, too, is a bore. If you want to taste what a float of Galliano can do, order your orange juice with tequila and meet Harvey's much more interesting brother, Jorge Wallbanger.Most basic rum-and-juice drinks also benefit from a splash of Galliano. It's the sexy dash of vanilla in this mellow yellow liqueur that makes it a clever companion for brown spirits, particularly rum and bourbon. (The same can't be said of gin. Like two sachets fighting it out in the sock drawer, the sharp forest notes of gin create too much discord with Galliano's sweet aroma of herbs, vanilla, and musk.)Introducing Galliano into your drinking routine is as easy as asking for cream in your coffee: just ask the bartender. The classic recipe for a sazerac requires a splash of Herbsaint, the anisette spirit of New Orleans, for which most Seattle bars substitute Pernod. Galliano, though it may buck the French vibe of the drink, transmits something more flavorful to the cocktail than a raging top note of licorice. Or make a newfangled Rusty Nail with equal parts bourbon and Galliano on the rocks, instead of 50-50 scotch and Drambuie. Try a variation on the standard rum, triple sec, and lime in a daiquiri with an additional splash of Galliano; old cocktail books call the drink a Yellow Bird.Next time you spy the tall, golden glass column, ask if your bartender can give you your nip of Galliano on the side before you add it to your drink. Or make it your next nightcap, and let's see if we can't put all those fortuitously deployed shelving props to better use.mdutton@seattleweekly.com

 
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