Bar Cart Brief: The Classics
Book carts and bar carts—these are a few of my favorite things. For decades, when I walked into Farley's bookstore I would head straight for the gunmetal grey library cart that was filled with hardcovers in the process of being loaded onto the new books table. Pre-mortgage and pre-Kindle, I always allowed myself the extravagance of hardcover books. After moving and unloading a literal ton of them, I now opt for less weighty options but
I've retained a few—among them a bilingual edition of the Collected Poems of Federico Garcia Lorca and Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger's City Cuisine, a collection of recipes from their acclaimed Los Angeles restaurant on La Brea.
Admittedly, our bar cart selection has as much to do with the aesthetics as it does with the taste of the tipple. I'm drawn to the architecture of the bottle, the design of the label, the prisms of color capable of dancing across the room when sunlight bounces and filters across the cart. I suppose, too, that's the attraction to poetry and prose—words—their melodic patterns, the magic of stringing them together to make them sing, soar, speak to the heart, stir the mind.
In books and booze, the things that matter are similar— color, shape, taste. . .On the bar cart and the bookshelf, it's important to establish a foundation of classics. My bookshelf will always hold the works of Cather, Capote, and Didion. As for the bar cart, I have an aspirational desire to collect 26 classics from A-Z.
Let's start at the very beginning—A is for Averna, my personal favorite in the amaro category because it's sweeter than many with an underlying caramel flavor that reminds me a bit of a deeply baked gingerbread cookie--likely the effect of the burnt sugar that goes into the distillation process along with other secret ingredients. The company is only willing to divulge three: pomegranate, and bitter lemons and oranges. This classic was created in 1868 by Frà Girolamo, a monk from Santo Spirito Abbey in the Sicilian village of Caltanisetta and gifted to a textile merchant, Salvatore Averna, in gratitude for his commitment to the local community. Nothing says gratitude like a bottle of booze.
For my money, I'd take an Ina Garten inspired homemade chocolate cupcake with pb icing over a Madeleine any day!
Averna is the first Amari I ever tasted-- sometime in my 30's, somewhere in Manhattan, some cold winter afternoon, and thus has held fast in my Proustian memory bank. Oh, and Proust should probably find its way to onto one of my bookshelves some day. Though I've never read Remembrance of Things Past, I've got mad respect for any writer who can turn the memory of tasting a small cake into the stuff of literary legend.