How I Aperitivo: Carley Gaskin

Nov 16, 2021Story: MARTINI & ROSSI® Art: Lyndon French

Bartender Carley Gaskin has always had a natural inclination for bringing together food and drink. Before she began working in the world of craft cocktails, she got her start in sports bars, where the pleasures of bites and booze are natural companions. But it was when she jumped into the cocktail world in her hometown of Nashville, Tennessee, that Gaskin discovered a whole new level of marrying the two. At a well-known farm-to-table restaurant with an emphasis on sustainability, Gaskin found an affinity for cross-utilizing ingredients from the kitchen, where she began exploring the use of items that some might consider waste—stems, peels and other odds and ends. Later, upon landing at a produce-focused restaurant in Chicago with a stellar cocktail program, she continued examining ways to collaborate with the culinary team and hone her low-ABV cocktail game. These experiences have all come together to inform her current ethos—cocktails inspired by Italian aperitivo, with a focus on seasonality and sustainability.

“The Italian approach to drinking is wonderful because not only is it my favorite style of cocktail to drink, but [it] is also generally centered around a meal,” Gaskin says. Today, she runs Chicago’s first cocktail catering company, Hospitality 201, where she’s found a niche bringing together the idea of using all parts of an ingredient—say, a carrot or a beet, stem to skin—and drinks that encapsulate the best of the season. Lately, she has also taken up pottery, saying she’s “excited to be getting back to my artistic roots and getting my hands dirty.”

"Aperitivi can differ in so many ways, which makes it even more fun to play with!"

Here, Gaskin gives us her take on aperitivo, that most beloved intersection of Italian food and drink.

Current occupation: Owner, Hospitality 201 (events and consulting)

Hometown: Nashville, Tennessee

Current location: Chicago, Illinois

How do you define the aperitivo? I define aperitivo as something usually carbonated, a little bitter and low ABV.

What do you most like about the Italian approach to drinking? The Italian approach to drinking is wonderful because not only is it my favorite style of cocktail to drink (light and low ABV), but the approach is also generally centered around a meal.

How do you go about creating an aperitivo-style drink? Aperitivi can differ in so many ways, which makes it even more fun to play with! Some are more fruit-forward, some are more vegetal, and some are more or less bitter than others. I like to find flavors that will pair well with the style of aperitivo [liqueur] I’d like to work with. For example, if the aperitivo has a lot of grapefruit flavors, I might pair it with something herbaceous like rosemary. … If it’s fruit-forward, I might pair it with a citrus-forward or London dry–style gin.

Tell us about your drink and why it’s a good aperitivo. This cocktail is my favorite style of drinking rolled into one. It’s light, citrus-forward and low ABV. I actually first made this cocktail about seven years ago, and have been tweaking it ever since! It pairs MARTINI & ROSSI® Bitter liqueur, fresh grapefruit and lime juices, soda water, rosemary and a hint of mezcal. It’s a great aperitivo because the bitterness of MARTINI & ROSSI Bitter liqueur and the crisp soda water and fresh juices will help prep your stomach for that wonderful meal you’re about to enjoy.

What’s your favorite aperitivo snack/pairing? Charcuterie! I tend to lean more toward the funkier cheeses, like a blue or aged cheddar, because they pair so well with a bitter cocktail.

Weirdest cocktail experiment you’ve ever attempted: Gosh, there are so many! I’d say the weirdest one would be a cheddar cheese fat-washed Tom Collins variation.

What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not eating, drinking or drink-making? I love going to concerts and seeing live music. Coming from Nashville, it’s something I’ve grown up with and something I cherish immensely, especially after this past year.

If you could travel to one place in Italy right now, where would it be and why? I am a huge history and art nerd, so although I have not been to Italy yet, I would love to visit Rome and see the historic buildings, art and sculptures.

If you had to pick only one: Negroni, Spritz or Americano? Americano!

Your favorite recipe featuring the MARTINI & ROSSI line:

Top Shelf Tina
1 1/2 ounces MARTINI & ROSSI® Bitter liqueur
1/2 ounce mezcal
1 ounce fresh grapefruit juice
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
1/2 ounce rosemary syrup (see Editor’s Note)

Add all ingredients to shaker and shake with ice. Pour into a wine glass or a Collins glass, and top with soda water.
Editor’s Note:

Rosemary Syrup
Rinse 2 large sprigs of rosemary with water before steeping. Add 2 cups water, 2 cups sugar and rosemary to medium pot over medium-low heat. Stir until sugars are dissolved, remove from heat, then let rosemary steep for 20 minutes. Remove rosemary, strain the syrup, then bottle and store.

Why do you like this cocktail? The grapefruit and rosemary pair really well with the bitterness and fruit-forward flavors of MARTINI & ROSSI Bitter liqueur.

What occasion(s) would you recommend serving it? Although this drink can be enjoyed any time of day, it is a perfect happy hour or before-dinner cocktail!


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