The Grand Mariner

Fishing Boats in Port - original watercolor by the Cocktail Artist
This is another cocktail we developed while on vacation in Northern Michigan. After visiting the Traverse City Whiskey Co distillery and picking up a bottle of their excellent North Coast Rye, we stopped in a local Italian specialty food shop and a bottle of Festivo Portofino caught our eye. It's an Italian bitter soda with a lovely peach color. 

While doing a little research into Festivo Portofino we found some parallels between our summer vacation spot in Northern Michigan and the Italian region where this soda is produced. Niasca Portofino (the company that produces the soda) was founded to celebrate the beauty of Portofino, a small Italian fishing village and a popular summer resort, and to promote its agricultural products. According to their website they formed the company to “help Portofino be lively also during the winter months, when the weather conditions do not allow open air activities.”  Portofino has just over 500 permanent residents, but in the summer, the population balloons with tourists and seasonal residents.

Like Portofino, Italy, our summer home-away-from-home (Charlevoix, Michigan) is a small town with a lovey harbor, plenty of summer tourists, wonderful local agricultural products, and winters that are often best appreciated from a cozy spot indoors. It’s located on Lake Michigan just a bit north of Traverse City. 

Our Grand Mariner Cocktail is the marriage of Festivo Portofino soda and Northern Michigan rye whiskey - both products of charming coastal communities with maritime traditions. The name is also a bit of an inside joke. One member of this Cocktail Artist partnership (who is a weekend sailor) consistently calls the orange liqueur “Grand Mariner” instead of by it’s actual name (Grand Marnier). This is always met with a quiet eye roll from the other part of this team. 

We assumed since we live in a large metropolitan area that we would be able to find Festivo Portofino in one of our local Italian food shops, but it proved a bit elusive. We ended up ordering some online from EatalyTraverse City Whiskey Co’s North Coast Rye is worth searching out, but if you can’t get it you can substitute another top shelf rye whiskey (Redemption or Russell’s Reserve). Our vermouth of choice for this cocktail is Italy’s Antica Formula, and (naturally) we had to add a bit of Grand Marnier. 

You would have to be a pretty grand mariner to sail from Lake Michigan's Grand Traverse Bay to Portofino, Italy (on the Ligurian Sea). So, we dedicate this cocktail to mariners of all sorts (grand or otherwise), and while we're at it, why not to the landlubbers too! 


Grand Mariner

1 1/2 ounce Traverse City Whiskey Co. North Coast Rye
3/4 ounce Antica Formula sweet vermouth
1/2 ounce Grand Marnier
2 ounces Festivo Portofino Italian bitter tonic

Measure rye, vermouth, and Grand Marnier into a cocktail shaker with ice cubes. Shake for 10 - 15 seconds. Add Festive Portofino tonic to the shaker, give the shaker a slight swirl and then strain into a chilled cocktail coup. Garnish with a cherry.

The Grand Mariner Cocktail along with the two key ingredients

At the dock - original watercolor by the Cocktail Artist

John Cross Fishing Boat - original watercolor by the Cocktail Artist

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