Travel, Cooking, Doing, Eating and Drinking (that about covers it)

The Emilio Picariello Cocktail – A Guest Post by Homebartendr

The Emilio Picariello Cocktail
The Emilio Picariello Cocktail (courtesy of Homebartendr)

Thanks to Scott and Beth from Homebartendr – my go-to blog for what cocktails, home bar information as well as one of my favourite Instagram posters- for this guest blog post, inspired by Gasoline Alley. You can follow them on Twitter, Instagram, or sign up for their fabulous posts!

The Emilio Picariello Cocktail – a guest post by Homebartendr

One of the amazing benefits of social media is connecting with people around the world who share your same interests.  We have been blessed to “meet” online many cocktail enthusiasts through Instagram, and one of our Instagram friends is Elin from Travel – Food – Cool.  Her website covers the worlds of travel, food and cocktails, with an emphasis on her two main locations – Canada and Italy.  Go check it out!

We are teaming up with Elin for a joint cocktail-travel post commemorating a trip to Gasoline Alley, a vintage car museum in Calgary, Alberta.  Check out the post here, including the recipe you’ll see below.

Gasoline Alley’s vintage car collection includes a 1918 McLaughlin-Buick once owned by Canada’s most famous bootlegger, Emilio Picariello.  Picariello used the “Whiskey Six” as the car was known to transport alcohol from British Columbia and Montana to Alberta when Alberta had its own Prohibition.

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The “Whiskey Six”, 1918 McLaughlin-Buick

Known as the Al Capone of Canada although originally from Sicily, Picariello ran an illegal booze operation out of his Alberta Hotel in Blairmore near the Crowsnest Pass.  Picariello had a basement dug under the hotel to run the operations, including a tunnel run to the road, and kept a player piano running in the hotel lobby to drown out any noise downstairs.  Using tactics including hiding bottles in sacks of flour, Picariello was able to outwit the Alberta cops that stopped he and his men at checkpoints in the Crowsnest Pass.  With his wealth and generosity to the public, Picariello became a Godfather of sorts in this part of Alberta.

Emilio Picariello
Emilio Picariello

Picariello and his convoy of three cars, including one driven by his son Steve, returned from a bootlegging run from British Columbia on September 21, 1922, when they were served a search warrant at the hotel.  Steve took off in one of the cars and headed back to B.C., and Emilio used his car to block the cops.  When Steve arrived at Coleman at the Alberta-British Columbia border, he was met by Alberta police constable Steve Lawson who fired a warning shot in the air to signal Steve to stop the car, then shot into the car when that warning went unheeded.  While Steve was shot, it was only in the hand, and the injuries were minor.

Meanwhile, Emilio was headed from Blairmore to Coleman, and found out that Steve had been shot by Lawson, but Emilio was not aware of the extent of the injury.  Versions of the story differ as to what happened next, but Lawson was fatally shot, and Picariello took off in his McLaughlin-Buick.  He and his wife hid out for a brief period, but they were found by police and arrested.  Picariello was put on trial in Calgary, found guilty of the killing of Lawson, and put to death by hanging at Fort Saskatchewan on May 22, 1923.

I wanted to craft a cocktail that would take into account the Emilio Picariello story, the McLaughlin-Buick car, bootlegging during the Alberta prohibition and the northwest United States (where some of the booze likely originated).  While Picariello was likely running plenty of whiskey through the Crowsnest Pass, I would venture that he also ran plenty of gin, and likely Old Tom gin.

The Emilio Picariello Cocktail
The Emilio Picariello Cocktail (photo Homebartendr)

Ransom, a distillery in Sheridan, Oregon, makes an excellent Old Tom gin that was developed to mimic the gins of the 1800s.  From the Ransom website:

“This Old Tom Gin is a historically accurate revival of the predominant Gin in fashion during the mid 1800’s and the golden age of American cocktails. The recipe was developed in collaboration with historian, author, and mixologist extraordinaire David Wondrich. Old Tom is the Gin for mixing classic cocktails dating from the days before prohibition. Its subtle maltiness is the result of using a base wort of malted barley, combined with an infusion of botanicals in high proof corn spirits. The final distillation is run through an alambic pot still in order to preserve the maximum amount of aromatics, flavor and body. Only the “heart of the hearts” (the very best portion of distillate) is retained for this special bottling.”

Perfect for our Emilio Picariello cocktail!  Old Tom Gin is used in The Martinez, the drink that many believe to be the precursor to the modern martini.  Most recipes call for 2 ounces of gin to 1 ounce of sweet vermouth for the Martinez, but the original version was the reverse of that ratio.  I wanted to use this ratio and add a touch of Sicily into the mix as a nod to Picariello’s roots.  Add a touch of old-school bitters, and you have the Emilio Picariello:

  • 1 oz Ransom old tom gin
  • 1 oz Carpano Antica Formula sweet vermouth
  • 1 oz Amaro Averna
  • 2 dashes Abbott’s bitters

The result is a very nice combination of herbal and sweet with a touch of chocolate flavor from the Averna.  Cheers!



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