On a recent jaunt to Piedmont, sitting at Giovanni and Fabrizio Ferrero’s dining table surrounded by yellowing vineyards, the father-and-son winemakers came out with a daring holiday drink suggestion: Moscato gin fizz.
Gin has been all the rage in recent years and it doesn’t matter where you live. Back in the UK, the supermarket shelves are lined with a rainbow of gins claiming to be flavoured with a cornucopia of fruit and flowers, while here in Tuscany producers remain in pursuit of premium drinks, drawing on the region’s natural plethora of botanicals. My drinks cabinet is a riot of juniper distillates: sloe gin from a National Trust estate; Sabatini Gin from Cortona (love!); and Spanish Gin Mare, an olive-centric distillate from somewhere between the Costa Brava and the Costa Dorada. Mix with tonic water over ice and Bob’s your uncle at any time of the year.
Moscato d’Asti, on the other hand, is not everyone’s cup of tea. At its worst, this slimline sparkling wine (it rarely exceeds 5% alcohol content) can be sugary and sickening. Take a slice of icing-sugar-spattered pandoro and knock back a glass of vino dolce without care or consideration. But when this delicately skinned grape is made well, with a loving hand on the treacherous tips of the steep San Stefano Belbo hills, well, that’s a whole different animal. In other words, do not use Fabrizio Ferrero’s ‘Teresina’ (named after his mother) for anything other than purist consumption.
But the Ferreros have a point. Gin, lemon juice and sugar can be shaken with ice, poured into a tumbler and topped with carbonated water, to make a classic gin fizz. By adding sparkling wine, we’re verging on a French 75 (gin, Champagne, lemon juice and sugar), whose predecessor was said to be crafted by Harry MacElhone at the New York Bar in Paris in 1915. Given that a bottle of Moscato d’Asti contains between 90 and 100 grams per litre of residual sugar, no more sweetness needs to be added to our Moscato gin fizz, and neither does any lemon juice, since a halfway decent MdA bears a bouquet of apple, pears and bananas and flavours resembling peach, apricot and, yes, a twist of lemon. Try a ratio of three parts Moscato d’Asti to one part gin.
Make yours a Moscato gin fizz this Christmas!