Shaken, Not Stirred | By: Valentina Cirasola | Interior Designer

As the holidays season approaches with all the cheerful lights, elegant evening dresses showing up in stores and many parties to attend, I am just on time to bring “to the table” some directions for easy, understated classic style to make many unforgettable stylish parties.

Being a designer with a passion for kitchen designs, good food and decorated tables, it is only natural that I would inform on the latest style and trends even when it comes to talk about the beginning and the end of a dinner.

My trips to Europe, other than visiting family and friends are an added excuse to browse in retail stores and take notes of all the beautiful merchandise, display styles, fill my eyes with colors and overflowing my mind with ideas. Invitations to friends’ homes are inevitable when I am there, they are my lifetime friends. Just that in itself is a precious opportunity to study their customs and learn what is going on across the Ocean.

My attention this autumn 2010 has fallen on the resurgence of the after dinner liqueurs, cordials, apéritif and digestive drinks, or “digestivi” as we Italians would call them in our language.
Digestive drinks have been used for centuries to help settle the stomach after a large meal. Often Italian meals last a few hours, when Italians get together for lunch or dinner can easily forget time!
Digestives also have the property of cleansing and detoxifying, facilitate digestion, eliminate toxins and at times help with reflux problems. They are made mostly with natural herbs, roots, tree barks and spices, infused in a base of alcohol. Due to all the herbs, they were originally considered more medicinal to resolve digestive problems than drinks to enjoy. It is recommended not to use them in large doses, because they are vasodilator, only sips will be favorable to the digestion.
Due to their bitter taste, digestives have had hard time appearing on the tables in the US until a few years ago. We can now find them in upper scale restaurants and in people’s homes along with aperitifs and palate cleansers between specialties. Fruit sorbets will do just that when served after a fish dish and also, to the contraire of digestives, they are vasoconstrictors and will ease the digestion by lowering the temperature in the stomach.

Apéritifs are a prelude to a good meal and often served one hour before lunch or dinner. In Europe going out for an apéritif is a way of socializing with friends or family. It is an occasion to see and be seen, gossip, to show off the newest fashion outfit and the best part is that ingesting an apéritif will enhance the appetite.
In order to make these kind of drinking activities even more fun and pleasant, we need to own special glasses. Holding an elegant, or an interesting designed glass in our hands exalts the pleasure, I know it’s a cliché, but we eat with the eyes first.
Please note the elegant 2010 new glasses collection made by Italian company Richard Ginori, producing ceramics, porcelain, pottery and glasses since 1735. This is pure elegance!
In my second book “Sins Of A Queen” I have included a small chapter on glasses to serve with apéritif and sweet wines.
Enjoy the following short excerpt:

Glass to use with all sweet wines and wines made with withered grapes
Plain glass, fine crystal is better, small chalice, slightly bombe’ and stocky with a smaller mouth. This shape allows the unfolding of all the aromas in the glass and all their concentration in the nose.

Glass to use with all liqueur type of wines
It is a small glass, a bitter taller than the glass used for sweet wines with a larger mouth, which is made for the dry wines of the liqueur type. The larger opening allows the wine to rest on the tip of the tongue, which is the part of the tongue most sensitive to taste sweetness.

Glass to use with Spumante and sparkling type of wines
Tall and thin flute glass. The long and narrow body allows the development in the mouth of fine “perlage” meaning it allows to taste the thin bubbles or pearls in the young wines produced with the classic method of all sparkling wines.
Flute glass with belly and a larger opening, allows the oxygenation of the sparkling wine and the right development in the mouth of complex aromas found in mature grapes without compromising the savoring of the “perlage”.
Half flute glass is shorter than the flute. It is made to taste dry Spumante type of wines with a less refined “perlage” and larger bubbles. The tight opening allows a good concentration of the delicate aromas towards the nose and a slow development of carbon dioxide”.

Enjoying the beginning of a dinner with an apéritif and the end with a digestive is surprisingly addictive. Once you get used to it, you must continue on. Let it happen, shaken or stirred is a choice of style and life and not only good for James Bond. Ciao,
Interior Designer  – Visit my site:

Copyright © 2010 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

Valentina Cirasola is an Italian Interior Designer with a passion for kitchens and cooking.
She loves to remodel homes and loves to turn ugly spaces into castles, but especially loves to design kitchens and wine grottos.
She is the author of two regional Italian cookbooks:
Come Mia Nonna – A Return To Simplicity –
Sins Of A Queen – is in the printing and due to be released around Nov.2010.

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