Working as the Oregon brand ambassador for Lucas Bols, I spend much of my time promoting Bols Genever. However I also work with one of our other brands, the ubiquitous Italian liqueur Galliano. Both present interesting challenges. With genever we’re introducing people to an entire category of spirits with which they may be unfamiliar. With Galliano, the spirit is familiar sometimes to the point of neglect. A friend of mine jokes that buying a bottle of Galliano is a condition of getting a liquor license; it seems like every bar has it, but they don’t reach for it as often as they could.
When I talk to the public about Galliano, three associations come up repeatedly. One is of course the Harvey Wallbanger. Another is people sneaking pours from their parents’ giant Galliano bottles when they were underage. Or lastly, if a person had been to bartending school, they remember that if a drink is ordered “against the wall,” that means it’s served with Galliano. I’m pretty sure this nomenclature derived from the Wallbanger, but one guy was certain of his alternative theory: Because 750 ml Galliano bottles are too tall to fit on some bar shelves, they’re stored “against the wall” instead. Probably wrong, but points for creativity!
To be fair, there’s a good reason the spirit has been overlooked in recent years. Previous owners of the brand moved production to France and altered the recipe, taking it down to 60 proof and making it much less complex. Those older bottlings are far too sweet. Bols, however, has taken the brand back to its original home in Livorno, Italy and restored its quality. It’s now back above 80 proof and much more complex, with some 30 herbs, spices, and extracts going into it. If you haven’t tasted it in a while, it’s worth giving it a new try. I was skeptical myself, but it really is a vast improvement over the French product. Look for the bottles with red trim and “L’Autentico” on the label.
The most famous Galliano cocktail is the Harvey Wallbanger, basically a Screwdriver with Galliano floated on top. A close second is the Golden Cadillac, a blend of Galliano, white crème de cacao, and half-and-half, sold in unimaginable quantities at Poor Red’s BBQ in El Dorado, California. This was a guilty pleasure of mine as far back as my DC days. Sweet, yes, but also delicious.
Recently I’ve been challenging some Portland mixologists to come up with new Galliano cocktails. Here are two of my favorites. The first is from Adam Robinson at Park Kitchen. He served this is as the opening drink at the cocktail pairing dinner that kicked off Portland Cocktail Week and it was a hit. He calls it the RCA cocktail, since the three ingredients are red, white, and yellow, like an RCA cable:
1.5 oz Cocchi Americano
1.5 oz Sanbitter soda
.5 oz Galliano
Stir with ice and strain into a rocks glass. Express a lemon zest over the drink and discard. This is a great aperitivo, low in alcohol but with lots of flavor and fantastic color from the Sanbitter soda.
Another drink I really like is the Livorno Buck from Dave Shenaut at Beaker and Flask:
.75 oz Galliano
.75 oz gin
.75 oz dry vermouth
.75 oz lime juice
Shake the first four ingredients with ice and strain into an ice-filled collins glass. Top with ginger beer and serve. It’s balanced and refreshing, a good long drink for sitting outside in the summer.
Have another good drink “against the wall?” Let me know in the comments.