Though sweet potatoes are generally relegated to the cooler months — typically candied or baked into pies in Black foodways — Nicole A. Taylor sought to use the vegetable in a more seasonally appropriate way in her latest cookbook, “Watermelon and Red Birds,” the first major cookbook dedicated to Juneteenth. So she made a syrup infused with the vegetable, vanilla and warming spices to flavor a spritz cocktail, ideal for summertime sipping.
The recipe for this rusty-orange cocktail — “It’s hands down one of my favorites,” Taylor says — is included with a bevy of other beverages in a chapter dedicated to red drinks, the official beverage of the holiday. Instead of more common Aperol or Campari, Taylor calls for Aperitivo Cappelletti as the amaro of choice because she is allergic to the dye used in the former two alternatives. To garnish each glass, she likes to use orange slices that she dehydrates, but you can also buy them online or use fresh fruit.
Make Ahead: The sweet potato syrup needs to be prepared at least 1 hour before serving.
Storage: The sweet potato syrup can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for several weeks.
Where to Buy: Aperitivo Cappelletti can be found in well-stocked liquor stores and online.
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For the sweet potato syrup
- 2 1/2 cups water
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 large sweet potato (about 12 ounces), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 star anise pod
- 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon fine salt
For the spritz
- 8 ounces Aperitivo Cappelletti, divided
- 3 ounces vodka, divided
- 2 ounces sweet potato syrup, divided
- 16 ounces sparkling wine, divided
- 4 dehydrated orange slices, for garnish
Make the sweet potato syrup: In a medium saucepan, combine the water, sugar, sweet potato, star anise, vanilla bean, cardamom, cinnamon and salt. Set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring frequently, until the sugar is dissolved and the sweet potato is tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the sweet potato steep in the syrup until cooled completely, 1 to 2 hours. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer and save the sweet potato for another recipe. (It’s great on toast.) You should have about 3 cups.
Make the spritz: In a cocktail mixing glass or shaker filled with ice, combine 4 ounces of Aperitivo Cappelletti, 1 1/2 ounces of vodka and 1 ounce of sweet potato syrup. Stir with a long bar spoon or shake hard until combined. Strain into two large wine glasses over ice and top each with 4 ounces of sparkling wine. Repeat to make two additional cocktails.
Garnish each cocktail with a dried orange slice and serve.
Because of the infusion to make the syrup, ingredients are too variable for a meaningful analysis.
Adapted from “Watermelon and Red Birds” by Nicole Taylor (Simon & Schuster, 2022).
Tested by Aaron Hutcherson; email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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