food. family. life.

dan’s open bar: va napoli

Long holiday weekends. 3 days.

A moment to sleep in and wake with time on your hands. Time to listen to yourself, do what your heart desires, a time when your favorite things prevail over all else.

My husband, Daniel and I treasure moments like this where our creative minds are free to dream up ideas and make something wonderful.

We have a common passion in all things Italian, including Italian liquores. Dan is a natural-born mixologist who likes to experiment with traditional Italian liquors, crafting blends that incorporate new flavors in classic cocktail mixes. I am always impressed and love to taste what he creates.cucinadimammina_la va napoli_drink

We adore classic vodka dirty martinis (shaken, extra dirty with plenty of olives and dirty ice on the side; classic or anchovy-stuffed only.)

This weekend, Dan crafted a martini that brings together flavors we love: fresh fennel, high-quality black licorice and the classic Italian liquore, Sambuca.

This liquore, crafted with the flavors of star anise and elderflowers has a mixed history that tells us of some very early anise-flavored beverages that were found in both Arabic writings as well as the Greek islands.

Italian history show this beverage was claimed (or stolen) by Luigi Manzi who created and sold his beverage called Sambuca Manzi. The final touch was made by Angelo Molinari around 1945 who took this beverage and made it a tradition in Italy without question, or so we think.

Dan’s drink recipe uses the fresh anise flavors of both the fennel and Sambuca in a martini, with the option of adding some black liquorice for an extra kick.

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Dan christened his drink with a name that lays claim to Sambuca’s somewhat questionable history and in honor of the city of Naples, Italy that inspires Dan and I from our childhood memories, our family members and many personal travels to this beautiful Southern coastal region of Italy.

Side Bar: This drink name conjures up many images of a somewhat mysterious and wicked past for the city of Naples, one which was always whispered about amongst the older Italian generations in our families.

va napoli


(yields 1 martini glass serving)

4 oz. of vodka (we love Eight Degrees from Holland) 

1/2 oz. of C&L Cristiani Sambuca (or Molinari whichever you prefer)

1 oz. dry vermouth

a few small wedges of fresh fennel

high-quality black licorice (we like Panda brand, if desired)

ice cubes

medium size shaker

classic martini glass

*dirty ice (on the side if desired)

Note: Dan used a piece of Panda black licorice that he cut into thin strips, you can also use thin wheel cut black licorice and just cut segments as desired)

Using a cutting board, cut the fennel wedges into thin strips and do the same with the black licorice. Tie the fennel strips together with pieces of the black licorice and place into your martini glass or glasses.cucinadimammina_va napoli drink_03

Add ice to your shaker and add in the vodka, vermouth and the Sambuca and shake vigorously until ice cold.

Place your fennel and licorice strips into a martini glass and strain your liquids into the glass.

Place your dirty ice in a short glass, add to your drink as desired and enjoy.

Note: A bit of magic occurs as the drink soaks into the fresh fennel and licorice strips pickling them with the deliciously wicked flavors of vodka and sambuca… a perk we enjoyed with some caution as they were quite strong.

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We recommend you serve this delicious drink with my favorite bar snack, a recipe I found on Food52 by Jestei for her genius homemade Chees-Its.

I have modified her original recipe a bit as I love a cheesier cracker

I added 1/2 cup of grated parmesan, I used smoked paprika and a extra teaspoon or so of a seasoning packet called SazonGoya with saffron.

I have also been known to use light olive oil in place of the vegetable oil for added richness to the flavor base.

Note: Photography by Annette Venditti

Buon Appetito!

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