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Drink of the Week: Church

We heard a rumor that everyone in San Francisco is talking about Locanda's Church cocktail. It's been around since at least last summer, but it can take time for a cocktail to build city-wide momentum. We have family and friends that live in the city by the bay, so this past weekend while they were visiting Portland we asked them about it. They hadn't heard of it. Then we realized that they are all avid readers of Summit Sips and since we hadn't posted the recipe for the Church, how would they find out about it?

We decided to remedy the situation last Sunday by making the Church for everyone to try, and it's definitely worthy of our Drink of the Week. If you happen to live in San Francisco and frequent Locanda, you might already know about it. If not, here's a great drink for summer, or for thinking about summer.

Church Cocktail
1 oz gin
1 oz Aperol
1 oz lemon juice
.5 oz Cocchi Americano
.5 oz gomme syrup

Shake with ice and strain over cubes or a large chunk of ice in a rocks glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

The gin should be a typical London Dry, and depending on the brand you choose you might get some variation of flavor. For the most part, however, the base spirit works its magic supporting everything else (as gin often does) and doesn't really assert itself over the other ingredients. We were out of Cocchi Americano, so we used Lillet Blanc instead. The two products are not the same, but they are close enough that either will make a good drink.

The dominant flavor comes from the interplay of Aperol and lemon. Aperol is sweet, but a full ounce of lemon juice needs a little more sugar to keep the acid under control which is why we have a bump of syrup. In this case, the original recipe specifies gomme syrup, which is a fancy simple syrup that contains gum arabic. Adding gum to your syrup is a step that is avoided by most modern bartenders, though you can find it bottled that way commercially. The gum helps stabilize the syrup allowing more sugar to stay dissolved, but more importantly, it adds viscosity that carries into the drink and gives it a silky mouth feel. We certainly appreciate this textural element but went ahead and used a 2:1 simple syrup instead.

Getting back to the Aperol and lemon, this cocktail is both refreshing and intense, though not in a boozy sort of way. Perhaps it was due to the garnish or the fact that Aperol has a fruity flavor and aroma, but our first sip reminded us of biting into a sweet and sour orange slice and getting some of the peel. It's a good balance of sugar, acid and bitterness from a combination of ingredients we'd like to explore further. No question, the Church is delicious just the way it is, but we can't help wondering what would happen if we subbed a liqueur for the syrup or Campari for the Aperol.

We have absolutely no idea why it's called the Church. Was it a coincidence that we tried it on a Sunday? Are we supposed to have one every week? Perhaps a kind reader from San Francisco will leave a comment explaining the name. Whatever the explanation, it's a good drink with simple ingredients that is also versatile, working nicely as a summer quencher, a morning reviver, or to whet your appetite for the next round.

15 comments to Drink of the Week: Church

  • James R. Coplin

    I've been playing with this one for a bit now and I have an alternate for you to try. It has become one of my favorites. I found when drinking the Church that it was a little too sweet and thick for me. I liked the flavor profile but wanted to shift it a bit. We call this a Nun's Habit in these parts.

    2oz London Dry Gin
    1oz Aperol
    1oz lemon juice
    1/2oz Cocchi Torino (It really matters. Lillet Rouge is my second choice if I'm out of the Torino)
    1/2oz Canton (what do you mean you don't have any hand?)
    1/2oz 1:1 simple syrup.

    • I like that this variation ups the base spirit, but it's starting to exceed classic volumes. Not exactly a "problem", but worth mentioning. I do love the idea of Cocchi di Torino for sweet vermouth instead of the lighter white modifier, but isn't that adding to the sweetness?

      As for Canton, I am all out. I happen to prefer the ginger burn of my own ginger syrup. Ounce for
      ounce, my ginger syrup goes a lot further than Canton for a given level of sweetness. In other words, to match my ginger flavor I would need to add so much Canton the drink would not handle all of the sugar it would add. A little homemade syrup goes a long way. I might have to do some experiments of my own with this variation! Good ideas for sure.

  • James R. Coplin

    It is heavy for a standard cocktail and a 1/2 light for a sour. As would be expected, it splits the difference in a way I really like. Not all the way to a sour but certainly not a straight cocktail either.

    I like the Canton precisely for its lightness. I can slip a little into a drink to add some interest without overpowering it. I'm a huge fan of the falernum I make but it is just too strong in flavor to add as a boost to anything. Canton does a nice job of sitting and staying put. I'd be interested to hear how it would be with your ginger syrup though. Maybe a strong punch of ginger would be good.

    As far as the sweet, rums are still my favorites so I tend to like my drinks on the sweeter side. However, the 2:1 syrup in the church coupled with the 1oz of gin was just way too thick for me.

    Let me know if you play with this at all. I'd be interested to hear what you kick up. Right now we are trying to working up drinks for all the factions in Game of Thrones.

  • Paul

    I found out I have a bag of Gum arabica which I bought when I was in Turkey many yeras ago where they burnt it as incense. Do you think I should go ahead and try to make some gomme syrup of it ? Is it worth the effort or can you just stick with simple syrup ? I hope it's not toxic. It's some type of resin from acacia trees.

    • Paul,
      I had a bag of gum arabic that was filled with bits of bark, wood fibers and all kinds of nasty stuff. Depending on the quality of your gum, you may not like the results, especially if it requires a lot of extra filtering. On the other hand, if you have food-grade gum, give it a try. It's not like you would be investing a lot of money in sugar and water. By most accounts, having the extra mouth feel is totally worth it. You'll have to do some searching for a good ratio. I don't have any details for you.

  • Paul

    Hi Randy ! I have just cooked up some gomme syrup, and it was real easy and the taste really is as thick and silky as it says and it has a special taste too, which is hard to describe, but very palpable. I really want to give it a try in a drink, and wonder if you think it would work in a Mai Tai with Smith and Cross, Lemonhart 151, orgeat and the rest ? Is it necessary to add alcohol to a simple/gomme syrup, or are they quite stable kept in the fridge anyway?

    • Paul, good to know about the success with gum Arabic. What ratio did you use? Stability that is usually discussed on this topic usually refers to the soluablitly of the sugar. In a 2:1+ saturated syrup, the sugar tends to crystallize and the gum helps prevent that. I don't know about contamination. A little neutral grain spirits always helps, but it's probably worth testing without it. If you use clean bottles and you are careful to keep everything santized when you start, it may not be a concern.

      I love a good Mai Tai, and your choice of ingredients will make a fantastic cocktail, but it's not the recipe I would choose to showcase your gum syrup. I would click the tag for "simple syrup" and browse through the recipes to find something that uses only syrup to sweeten the drink. That way, you get away from liqueurs that would dilute the effect of the gum. Inevitably, you would use your gum syrup in everything that calls for simple, but you might try something with a larger proportion to really see the effect!

  • Paul

    I meant to say that I was going to try it in a mint julep, as there is no syrup in Mai Tai , except for the orgeat, and I can report that it did put some smoothness to Mint Julep that I don't think simple syrup would have achieved.
    I got the food grade gum arabic on the net ( eBay ) and I halfed the recipe and did as follows:

    I mixed 1oz ( measured in a jigger ) of powder and mixed it with 1,5 oz of hot water, stirring with a spoon to dissolve it, which was quite easy. It turned into a brown syrupy-looking goo. I tried some and it tasted very silky and a bit like bark maybe.
    I let it sit for about 20minutes, and while sitting I made the rich simple syrup:
    3oz of white sugar and 1 oz of raw sugar mixed with 2.25 oz of water and brought to a boil over gentle heat.
    I let it boil for about 2 minutes. I then removed it from the stove and mixed in the gum arabica mix, let it cool and bottled it up. I got 1 cup of syrup.

    • Thanks for the recipe! I may have to feature this in a post at some point. Also, a proper Mai Tai does have a quarter ounce of simple syrup, but that didn't seem like enough to test your syrup.

  • Thanks so much for this fantastic Church recipe!
    I had the pleasure of drinking this cocktail at Locanda and I have been wondering how it was made ever since!
    I plan on wowing my friends with this one for the next several months.

  • Charly, let us know how it turns out!

  • Gabriel

    The name:

    In my early days of bartending (which I am really still in), I learned of a cocktail from a wonderful bar (and bartender) everyone should visit.

    http://www.drinkboy.com/Cocktails/Recipe.aspx?itemid=248

    About a year later, a guest at my bar identified themselves as a fellow drink slinger, she worked at the SLS hotel in Las Angeles.

    http://www.starwoodhotels.com/luxury/property/dining/index.html?propertyID=3171

    She showed me a variation she (or maybe a coworker there) had been serving with the addition of an aperitif. I love Aperol but the drink had always had a just a little too much for me. I love bitters, but working at an extremely high volume cocktail bar, it is wonderful to make a drink without.

    My manager said it tasted like a REALLY good version of Tang(tm?).
    It felt like something you would drink in the sun on a beautiful weekend afternoon. The original name was "Tang After Church". Though it would have been quite hilarious to have folks approach the bar all night asking for more 'tang, I really liked the simplicity of a one syllable word, also how it looks in print.

    CHURCH

    Church is southern slang for something that's good. I hope you like and James, I REALLY like the name of your variation. Can I steal it?

  • James R. Coplin

    Gabriel, I don't see how I could possibly stop you from "stealing" my variants name. ;) I have to say, months later, this drink has managed to stay in the regular rotation and I still love it. I sourced some gum arabic and it has been finding its way in to all sorts of other sour drinks here.

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