The White Lotus: Drinking in Italy…and Not Just the Wines (Although Etna Plays a Major Role)

Mt. Etna remains active but gentle and fantastic wines are produced in her volcanic soils

Now may be the worst time to go to Sicily. Although we will all be tempted to get there by the summer thanks to the dramatic and stunning land and seascapes brought to the viewers of season two of Mike White’s hotel dramedy “The White Lotus.”

Season one showed off the glory of Four Seasons Maui, tropical drinks, island food and a bunch of characters brought together either in service or as guests at a decadent, luxurious hotel that showcases that both sides of the hospitality business have their own dramas, triumphs and failures. And, at the end, someone you least expect dies a strange, almost quirky in its wtf-ness, death.

Season two is set at another luxe Four Seasons, this one San Domenico Palace in Taormina, Sicily, Italy.I have been to Sicily a few times and love its history, charm and rawness but, as the tour guides roll out their “visit the sites of The White Lotus” hop-on, hop-off tours, I will lay low in some other corner of Europe. If you don;t realize film can “make” a destination, think of the tours of the Game of Thrones sites in Dubrovnik, Croatia or “The Hobbit” sets in Wellington, New Zealand. There is a “Goonies” museum in Arcadia, Oregon and one for “A River Runs Through It” in Livingston, Montana.

Vacations Mean Cocktails

Aperol Spritz is summer’s traditional day drinking favorite

The characters of The White Lotus, especially the guests and some of the locals they mingle with, drink a lot. Maybe it starts with a mimosa at the breakfast brunch overlooking the sea each morning and by lunch  they’ve moved on to Italy’s classic Aperol Spritz and by evening it is round after round of gin and tonics, maybe wit the ultra-hip Italian gin called ENGINE that celebrates the Italian motor scene and comes in a can resembling that of a package of motor oil. So cheeky yet so yummy.

Italian gin from ENGINE reflects the Italian love of fast cars

Try this aromatic Italian gin in an ice cold Gin & Tonic with a garnish of sage or a classic Negroni, consumed frequently through The White Lotus. Make one with ⅓ ENGINE gin, ⅓ Campari Italian bitters and ⅓ soda, shake with ice and pour over ice with orange garnish.

The Classic Highball gets a fun mention from a fan favorite, and the only returning cast member, hilarious Jennifer Coolige. When consulting a gypsy Coolidge asks if the woman would like tea or coffee then says “I can make us a highball” which struck me since we rarely hear that name for a cocktail. A simple highball is classic: good whiskey like Old Elk from Colorado (1/12 – 2 oz in typical highball glass and another 4 oz or so of sparkling water or soda. Serve over ice. Our local Geyserville Gun Club features highballs on their permanent cocktail menu.

And In Sicily We Drink Wines of Etna

The Mt. Etna volcano plays a major role in The White Lotus; in fact, the fuming mountain is almost a character and sets the scene for whatever doom is lurking at the otherwise beachy clean resort. But, while the volcano smolders, at its base some of Italy’s best vineyards put forth wines that attract worldwide attention. In a scene where two couples head to the volcano for wine tasting, the tenseness in their relationships is temporarily put aside as they learn about native grapes like Nerello Mascalese, and basically sip, then guzzle an array of whites and reds.

There are many good producers on Mt. Etna but this piece in Wine Spectator give us the backstory on the family and history behind Planeta Estate’s Sciaranuova vineyard. Planeta is a large, heavily exported brand with vineyards throughout the isle of Sicily.  For a White Lotus drinking party, you should be able to find the wines tasted in the show at your local wine store.  Sicily’s Planeta Winery Hosts HBO’s ‘The White Lotus’ | Wine Spectator.

Vito and Allessio Planeta were thrilled that the cast and crew of The White Lotus spent two full days at Planeta in early May. “The timetable was very tight, because weather forecasts gave a 50 percent chance of rain,” said Vito and Alessio. “In the end, it was gloriously sunny! We’ll never forget: 15 minutes after the final ‘Stop,’ it started to rain!”

Three Planeta wines starred in the episode: Planeta Carricante Sicilia Eruzione 1614 2018 (91 points, $27), Planeta Nerello Mascalese Sicilia Eruzione 1614 2018 (90, $35) and Planeta Etna Bianco 2020.

When I was in Sicily, I visited a fantastic Etna winery where we dined on local food and learned about the uniqueness of this volcanic site. Barone di Villagrande Winery and Wine Resort is a good place to start and a 5- or 7- course meal is the way to go. Other wineries to visit include Benanti, Gambino Vini Torntore Winery, Emilio Sciacca, ORO d’Etna and Nicosia WInery.

Beers in The White Lotus

Beers are not a big player in the TV Series but I found it funny that British working class con man Jack (played by Leo Woodall) asks American upscale girl, Portia (played by Haley Lu Richarson)) who is at the resort as Tanya’s assistant if she wants to drive into Palermo for some Italian beer.  In the next scene, Jack is enjoying the typical American working man’s beverage, a Budweiser.