A nuanced citrus flavor that is not quite lemon descends and is overcome by a tossed ocean breeze. The hoarse salinity grounds the cocktail in fields of celery. Slowly a cool essence, minty and slightly bitter, eases over your palate. And for a second, right at the top, there’s a refreshing splash, like cucumber.
“The salt brings out flavors you don’t even know were there,” says Anthony Vitacca, director of wine and spirits for Carmel institutions Little Napoli, Vesuvio and – newly rebranded as a cocktail destination – Bar Napoli.
The veteran mixologist just rolled out a list of cocktails to mark the opening of Bar Napoli, the former wine shop Vino Napoli. And they are true to the form of someone who considers bitters as “salt and pepper” – wavering on a tightrope as distractions and unforeseen portents swirl about. Grunge n’ Ganja plays with Stiggin’s Pineapple Rum, which offers a tropical puree with hints of sweetgrass and just enough ginger to tickle the palate. And it continues to frolic from there.
As part of the introduction, Bar Napoli created happy hour pricing – a temporary welcome that may be the best deal on the Peninsula. Cocktails at $7.50 are otherwise unheard of these days. Vitacca is also considering three distinct drink menus, one for each establishment. For now there are eight options and they are created with bee pollen or cherry bark or whatever creates an intricate yet approachable feel.
“They’re all my babies,” Vitacca says. “Although behind closed doors, you might have a favorite child.”