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Originally published Saturday, August 16, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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A sip of Europe without the trip

Recipes for European-style cocktails you can make right at home.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Want a taste of European cocktails? If your bank account has been siphoned off at the gas pumps and your frequent-flier mileage account (like mine) is hovering around 330 miles, you might have to forgo the trip across the Pond and make a few drinks right here at home.

Alluring aperitifs

When it comes to cocktails, Europeans have honed drinking to almost an art form, especially with aperitifs. Sipping aperitifs before a big meal, particularly when paired with munchies like olives, crackers and nuts (pistachios are a favorite), is as much a part of the European dining experience as eating late. Evening meals are often served at 9 or even 10, so aperitifs work nicely to fill the time.

Martini & Rossi (www.martini.com), at least in Italy, where it's made, and in my own home bar, reigns supreme for aperitifs and even after-dinner drinks. Most of their vermouth products, like the fruity Extra Dry, go easy with a splash of tonic or in a dry martini (try Bombay Sapphire gin for the martini), but mix especially well with other ingredients for predinner cocktails.

The Bianco, a dry white-wine blend that finishes with vanilla notes, works great with apple juice, and the Rosso, a dark vermouth that's more spicy and sharp, blends easily with orange juice. For after dinner, try M&R's Asti or Prosecco, sweet, sparkling wines that I've only recently tried and found an extremely enjoyable accompaniment to desserts like ice cream and pie.

MARTINI & ROSSI ROSSO AND APPLE JUICE

1 part Martini & Rossi Bianco

1 part apple juice

Pour ingredients over ice.

MARTINI & ROSSI PALERMO

1 part Martini & Rossi Rosso

1 part orange juice

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Pour ingredients over ice. Garnish with an orange slice.

MARTINI & ROSSI PROSECCO BELLINI

4 parts Martini & Rossi Prosecco

1 part white peach puree

A squeeze of fresh lemon

Pour white peach puree and a squeeze of fresh lemon into a champagne flute. Top with chilled Martini & Rossi Prosecco and serve.

Do you dare try

the "green fairy"?

While absinthe is only just now making a comeback in the United States after being banned in the early 1900s, the "green fairy" — so-called because of its alleged hallucinogenic powers — has never really lost its popularity in Europe. Now that it's making its way back into American bars, where drinkers most frequently dilute it with water and sugar using a perforated spoon, it's showing up in cocktails, too. If you have a taste for licorice, then you'll probably like absinthe. If it's still too strong for the palate, then try these recipes from Pernod (www.pernod.net), inspired by European artists and writers.

LA BERCEUSE

Created in honor of Vincent van Gogh by mixologist Jim Ryan at the Dressler in New York City.

½ part Pernod Absinthe

1 ½ parts tequila blanco

½ part raw organic blue agave nectar

1 lemon, halved

3 strawberries, hulled and quartered

Muddle strawberries and agave nectar. Add the juice of one half lemon, spirits and ice. Shake and strain into a tall ice-filled glass and top with seltzer.

RIMBAUD'S LEFT HAND

Created in honor of Arthur Rimbaud by mixologist Stephen Cole at the Violet Hour in Chicago.

1 part Pernod Absinthe

1 part Benedictine Liqueur

1 part Aperol Orange Liqueur

1 part lemon juice

1 part pineapple juice

1 egg white

Rose water

Combine ingredients in a mixing glass, shake first without ice. Shake with ice and strain into a coupe glass with sidecar. Garnish with drops of rose water in the center.

A new kind of bubbly

The first time I went to France, I fell in love with the idea that champagne is ordered just like any other cocktail. There is something coolly elegant, stylish and very Grace Kelly-ish about sipping champagne instead of a margarita or a mai tai. Now from Sweden comes Camitz Sparkling Vodka (www.camitzvodka.com), a bubbly, champagne-like vodka that has completely tickled my fancy. I first tried it at Jiva Hill Hotel in Crozet, France (which is why my frequent-flier account now has only 330 miles), and found its light, sweet finish definitely to my liking. Right now, it's available in Europe and a few restaurants, bars and retail outlets in New York and Miami, but its ever-growing popularity almost guarantees that it will eventually be available nationwide.

CAMITZ + CHAMPAGNE (C&C)

10 parts champagne

4 parts Camitz Sparkling Vodka

Refrigerate ingredients, then layer in chilled champagne flute by carefully pouring in the order above.

CAMITZ SPARKLING VODKA MARTINI

1 part dry vermouth

4 parts Camitz Sparkling Vodka Martini

Pour vermouth into chilled glass. Swirl the vermouth to cover inside of glass and remove, then carefully pour Camitz Sparkling Vodka into the glass. Garnish with a lemon zest string.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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