October 13, 54 was the day Nero replaced Claudius as the Roman Emperor, so we’re going to mix up the Rome With a View cocktail. After all, we need something Roman to drink to that event and this is a refreshing low ABV drink. Those were the times of bread and circuses to placate peasants in the Roman Empire, with plenty of intrigue, delusion of grandeur, general debauchery, murder and other nasty stuff.
We’re not sure we’d attribute the crazy side to the fact that they drank wine rather than cocktails. After all, distillation hadn’t been invented. But there were definitely some behaviors that sound like bad drunks, unlike our astute readers.
Nero and his reign.
Nero became Emperor at the age of 16, immediately upon Claudius’ death. He started off well, though it’s questionable how much he actually did. His mother apparently meant to rule through her son, so things happened like her face showing on coins rather than his. Historians have described policies attributed to Nero as “well-meant but incompetent notions.” His advisors Burrus and Seneca get credit for his early administration being seen as good and moderate government.
Nero developed grandiose plans for conquests and public works, but it took a while before the real brutality came out. Then he had his mother put to death when she became furious about losing control, and he had his wife Octavia killed because he fell in love with another woman.
Nero indulged all his puerile interests after realizing he could do whatever he pleased. He got into antics like theater and as a charioteer, which to the population were scandalous breaches of decorum. As Emperor, he could skew the odds in his favor. He showed up to an Olympics chariot race running ten horses instead of four, crashed, and was still declared the winner. He became attracted to cults and spent a fortune building an ornate palace. That burnt down, of course, in the great fire that ravaged Rome in 64.
Nero was famous for never wearing the same garment twice, pursued sexual thrills and had a senator murdered for his melancholy expressions. He had favorite freemen castrated and then married them. He killed a second wife. By year 68 revolt spread throughout the empire. His reputation was a shambles and the Senate condemned him to die a slave’s death: on a cross and under the whip. His guard abandoned him and facing death he killed himself with a dagger to the neck.
The Rome With a View Cocktail
We’ve covered one Roman Empire related cocktail before, the Negroni Sbagliato in honor of the Battle of Allia that led to the sacking of Rome. That was a few hundred years after Nero. But the great fire of Rome was in Nero’s time and destroyed two thirds of the city.
Legend, of course, has it that Nero played the fiddle while he watched Rome burn. But the reality is that’s a literary construction and he was actually at his villa in Antium, some 35km away. Nonetheless, he may have had a view of it and for that we’ll be mixing the Rome With a View cocktail.
The Rome With a View recipe was created in 2008 by Michael McIlroy at Milk & Honey in New York. A legendary place, we’ve discussed it before in the context of the Gold Rush cocktail. The drink itself is refreshing and low ABV as its most potent ingredient is Campari at 24% ABV. It’s really another highball type variation, much like the Finnish Long Drink, Tom Collins and Mountain Suze.
Rome With a View
- Collins or Highball Glass
- Fill tall glass with ice.
- Add Campari, dry vermouth, lime juice and simple syrup.
- Top with club soda and stir gently.