We’re mixing the Italian Exit cocktail today because April 1, 1748 was the day the ruins of Pompeii were rediscovered by Spaniard Rocque Joaquín de Alcubierre. The city was first discovered in 1549 when a guy dug a water channel through the area, but he left the dead city alone. We have the Spanish military engineer Roque to thank for starting to dig out the ruins, both forever changing archaeology forever and starting to uncover the bar graffiti of Pompeii.
Pompeii appears to have been a great place to live, a wealthy town, full of fine public buildings and lavish homes. But that all came to an end when Mount Vesuvius blew its top in 79 AD. The adjoining town, Herculaneum, didn’t fare any better. The party came to an end when everybody and everything was buried under a thick layer of volcanic ash.
This was largely unknown until Rocque Joaquín de Alcubierre came along. He stumbled across the city remains, requested permission from the King, and started excavating in 1748. This led to the discovery that the city was mostly intact, with a look of surprise on the faces of former inhabitants.
This discovery changed the whole concept of archaeology, which had previously only been looking for trinkets to decorate private homes and estates. The excavations are still going on.
This is important, because only through painstaking work have archaeologists identified the numerous bars in Pompeii and the graffiti their patrons left in them and elsewhere.
At this point about 163 pubs have been identified. How many of them were real bars remains unknown, but it is widely accepted that they weren’t drinking Negronis. Nonetheless, patrons produced a fair amount of graffiti. A few highlights include:
- “Restituta, take off your tunic, please, and show us your hairy privates.”
- “I screwed the barmaid.”
- “Watch it, you that shits in this place! May you have Jove’s anger if you ignore this.”
- “Celadus the Thracian makes the girls moan!”
- “Chie, I hope your hemorrhoids rub together so much that they hurt worse than when they ever have before!”
- “Secundus defecated here.”
This just goes to show you that lowbrow humor and drunken graffiti have been staples throughout the ages. Clearly, empire building and poop jokes are not mutually exclusive.
Italian Exit Cocktail
The Italian Exit seems appropriate today because that’s what the residents of Pompeii had in mind. Many did exit, but those that waited too long met an unpleasant fate. The drink itself joins others low ABV drinks, such as the Milano-Torino, the Rome With a View, the Negroni Sbagliato and the Django Reinhardt cocktails. We’re not sure why the low ABV drinks that have become Drinks of the Day tend to skew Italian.
The Italian Exit recipe comes to us from Punch. They attribute the drink to Maks Pazuniak and Kirk Estopinal, who published it in their obscure and not-for-beginners book Beta Cocktails. It’s dead simple – equal parts sweet and dry vermouth, with a bit of Fernet Branca added to provide a slightlt bitter spine.
While we’re on the subject, a word about vermouth. It’s barely more alcoholic than wine so if you leave it out on the kitchen counter it will quickly go bad. We strongly advise buying it in half bottles and storing in your refrigerator. Easy to fit, those bottles take a lot less space than a milk carton.
Italian Exit Cocktail
- 1½ oz Dry vermouth
- 1½ oz Sweet Vermouth
- ¼ oz Fernet Branca
- Garnish: orange twist
- Add all ingredients to your trusty shaker.
- Add ice and shake until frosty cold.
- Strain into pre-chilled cocktail glass.
- Express twist over top of drink and garnish.
- Rinse and repeat.