Negroni Cocktails: Past, Present & Future

Negroni Week Cocktails: Past, Present and Future // stirandstrain.com

This post is brought to you by Campari. Recipes and ideas are my own.

Your Instagram feed might be turning from #millennialpink to a cheery garnet red next week as we embark on the FIFTH year of Negroni Week!

If you’re not familiar with this wonderful time of year, or have only heard of it in passing, let me loop you guys in. From June 5 through 11 this year, bars, restaurants and vendors from around the world celebrate the Negroni cocktail – an iconic mix of Campari, gin, and sweet red vermouth – to raise money and awareness for great causes. What started as just 100 bars in the US, has now grown into an International event and this year will be bigger than ever.

Negroni Week Cocktails: Past, Present and Future // stirandstrain.comWhile you’ll see me out to help the cause next week at a few of my favorite bars (remember to follow us along on Instagram as we’ve planned a few surprises!!) there are other ways you can help a charity out. A portion of proceeds from the sales of nationally-available items such as a Campari-branded red bicycle from PUBLIC, a Negroni-red Baggu tote, and fire red-tinted sunglasses from Sunski, among other items, will be donated to charity. National partner Lyft will also offer coupon codes to new users to help riders safely get around during Negroni Week.

Campari, the star of the cocktail itself, is committed to supporting the trade community’s fundraising efforts as well. This year, Campari is teaming up with both the U.S. Bartenders’ Guild (USBG), as well as SHARE – a nationwide community that offers support to women diagnosed with breast and ovarian cancers – via SHARE’s partnership with Speed Rack, the all-female speed bartending competition benefitting breast cancer research, education and prevention. Multi-city events will be held with both the USBG and SHARE/Speed Rack to raise money for each charitable cause.

I am a staunch believer in volunteer and charity work and grew up in a community that placed a strong emphasis on these values. That’s why I’m participating once again to help spread the word. While going for a drink out may seem almost like a lay up to support a charity, the point is, it supports a charity. Everyone, and every bit (or drink), counts.

Because Negroni Week is also a celebration of the cocktail, I’ve teamed up with Campari to create 3 of my own variations on the cocktail to represent its Past, Present and Future (and have named them such).

Negroni Week Cocktails: Past, Present and Future // stirandstrain.comNegroni:Past (double vanilla Negroni float)

Representing the past, the Negroni: Past Cocktail harkens back to old timey soda fountain shops where ice cream floats were an indulgent treat for everyone. Here we’ve made this an “adult’s only” cocktail with double the vanilla. Vanilla infused gin, Campari, vanilla ice cream and sweet vermouth “sauce” is a refreshing, and super indulgent, treat for the summer. Optionally, if you can get your hands on some acid phosphate you can give your float extra tang just like the OG soda jerks did.

Negroni Week Cocktails: Past, Present and Future // stirandstrain.com1-1/2 ounces gin, such as Bulldog London Dry Gin, infused with vanilla (recipe follows)
1 ounce Campari
2-3 scoops vanilla ice cream
8 ounces sweet vermouth, such as Cinzano 1757
optional: 1/2 tsp acid phosphate

  1. Start by reducing the sweet vermouth. To do this, heat sweet vermouth in a small sauce pan over medium heat until it reduces to about 2 ounces. Set aside.
  2. In a pint glass, or soda fountain glass, add 2-3 scoops of vanilla ice cream. Then, in a mixing glass filled 2/3 with ice, add in vanilla infused gin and Campari (and acid phosphate if using). Stir to chill about 20 seconds. Strain mixture over the ice cream.
  3. Garnish your adult float with the sweet vermouth “sauce”.

Negroni Week Cocktails: Past, Present and Future // stirandstrain.comVanilla Infused Gin

8 ounces gin, such as Bulldog London Dry Gin
3 to 4 vanilla beans

  1. Chop vanilla beans into 1″ pieces. Add vanilla pieces and gin into an airtight container and seal. Leave in a cool, dark place for 3 to 4 days.
  2. Strain the mixture into a new container when desired taste has been reached.
  3. Vanilla infused gin will keep at optimal taste up to 6 months.

Negroni Week Cocktails: Past, Present and Future // stirandstrain.comNegroni:Present

Just because the original Negroni cocktail uses gin, does not mean that today’s has to. One of the biggest trends of the current cocktail era is to take a classic drink and swap out the main spirit. Mezcal has exploded onto the bar scene and you can find it popping up in most bar’s menus. And with good reason, it’s delicious. For this cocktail, we swap out the gin with mezcal, keep our friends Campari and sweet vermouth, and add a touch of green bell pepper syrup to highlight the vegetal nuances of the mezcal.

1 ounce mezcal
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth, such as Cinzano 1757
1 ounce Campari
1/2 ounce green bell pepper syrup (recipe follows)
large strip of orange zest for garnish

In a mixing glass 2/3 filled with ice, add in mezcal, sweet vermouth, Campari and bell pepper syrup. Stir for 20 seconds to chill and then strain over a large ice cube in a rocks glass. Garnish with orange zest.

Negroni Week Cocktails: Past, Present and Future // stirandstrain.comGreen Bell Pepper Syrup

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 green bell pepper, chopped

  1. In a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat, add to the pan the sugar and water. Stir to dissolve and add in green bell pepper. Stir and bring to a boil. Immediately remove from heat and cover.
  2. Let sit one hour, remove bell peppers, and let syrup finish cooling to room temperature.
  3. Store syrup in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one month.

Negroni Week Cocktails: Past, Present and Future // stirandstrain.comNegroni:Future

When you think of the future of cocktails, do you picture some mad scientists conducting experiments in a lab? I do. With the future in mind, I’m highlighting the sharp bitterness of the Negroni with gentian smoke for a take on the smoked cocktail. This cocktail requires a blow torch, so you know it’s fun.

Negroni Week Cocktails: Past, Present and Future // stirandstrain.com1 tablespoon dried gentian root
1 ounce gin, such as Bulldog London Dry Gin
1 ounce sweet vermouth, such as Cinzano 1757
3/4 ounce Campari
dehydrated orange slice for garnish

  1. Start by moving to a well ventilated room. Place gentian root in a shallow, heat proof dish (I also like mini disposable pie plates!). Get a kitchen torch or long fireplace lighter ready.
  2. Next, fill a mixing glass 2/3 with ice. Pour in gin, sweet vermouth and Campari. Stir to chill 20 seconds.
  3. Immediately begin smoking the gentian root by holding a flame to it until starts to smoke. As soon as it begins to smoke, place a glass upside down over the smoke to “catch” the smoke. When the glass is filled, slide a postcard or piece of cardstock over the hole to keep the smoke in.
  4. Turn the glass right side up, keeping the hole covered. When ready to serve, remove the card and strain the mixed cocktail into the smoke. Garnish with a dehydrated orange wheel.

Negroni Week Cocktails: Past, Present and Future // stirandstrain.com

For more information on Negroni Week, and for a list of bars participating, visit negroniweek.com and follow @CampariUS and @Imbibe on Facebook, @CampariUSA and @Imbibe on Instagram, @Campari and @Imbibe on Twitter, and engaging with the #NegroniWeek hashtag.

The Frozen Blood and Sand Cocktail… is better than a regular Blood and Sand Cocktail

Frozen Blood and Sand Cocktail // stirandstrain.comLike many ideas we take for granted, I was wrong on this one. For the longest time I was under the impression that the Blood and Sand cocktail was, in fact, a tiki cocktail. My assumption was based on the fact that local tiki bar, Tiki Ti, served this bevy up on their regular menu. A drink that elicits shouts of Toro! Toro! Toro! by patrons when ordered had to be born of tiki blood.. right? Wrong.

The Blood and Sand cocktail is actually pre-tiki, although the idea of putting “sand” into your name almost always guarantees it’s of the tropical variety. And all that toreador fanfare at the bar smacks of Tiki’s theatrics. But this drink goes a bit further back in time than the Tiki era, as it takes its name from Valentino’s 1922 bullfighting movie and appears in the 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book (and not an original name by myself, which for some reason, people were really confused about when I originally offered this recipe up on Serious Eats). And really, what about the Scotch? Scotch seems like such an un-tiki spirit. But every liquor nowadays can star in a tropical libation.Frozen Blood and Sand Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

And for me, whipping it up into a frozen version makes it even more so.

Which brings me to today’s drink. Let’s all be honest here; the Blood and Sand cocktail is not really good. All that orange juice, ugh. Orange juice as a mixer is like adding a lot of bland, marginally flavored water to your drink. And you usually need A LOT of it to even taste the essence of the orange. So what you usually get when you order a Blood and Sand cocktail is something very unbalanced.

This drink tries to mix that up, adding more flavor and using the original blood orange juice in place of just plain old OJ. And on top of that, a bit of Grand Mariner for extra orange sweetness. There’s some super peaty scotch in here, but if that’s not your bag, sure, I guess go for something a bit more subdued. Keep in mind though that this is a very cold drink, and you need that extra flavor to punch it up. I’ve also batched this for 4 because if you’re having frozen cocktails, you’re having a party. Even if that party is for one.Frozen Blood and Sand Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Makes 4 drinks

6 ounces peated Scotch whisky, such as The Peat Monster
4 ounces fresh blood orange juice from about 4 blood oranges
3 ounces sweet vermouth, such as Carpano Antica
2 ounces Luxardo cherry syrup
1 ounce Grand Marnier
4 dashes Angostura bitters
4 blood orange slices and 4 Luxardo cherries, for garnish

  1. Pour Scotch, blood orange juice, sweet vermouth, cherry syrup, Grand Marnier, and Angostura bitters into a resealable freezer-safe container. Seal and freeze for at least 8 and up to 24 hours.
  2. When ready to serve, pour Scotch mixture into a blender with 4 cups ice. Blend until smooth. Divide between four coupe glasses and garnish each glass with an orange slice and Luxardo cherry.

Tangy Cider Fizz

Tangy Cider Fizz Cocktail // stirandstrain.comOK, OK. I know I made a whole point of telling you how pears were the new black this Fall and let’s forget about apples. BUT, I forgot I had this special drink in my pocket. As I try to do around holiday time, this cocktail is on the low alcohol side so that 1. you can offer your guests some lighter options 2. you can drink more of it 3. well, you get to drink more of it!Tangy Cider Fizz Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

At first glance, the ingredient list looks like the start of some Thanksgiving dessert: brown sugar, apple cider, lemon juice…but then we get some sweet vermouth thrown in there. Mmmm. Carpano Antica provides your boozy boost here and turns out it’s a strong enough player to carry all the elements.Tangy Cider Fizz Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Getting this not to turn into an overly sweet cocktail means a careful balance of ingredients. It’s amazing what a squeeze of lemon can do in addition to a nice glug of club soda. Even with 4 ounces, the drink still feels rich and bright. And don’t forget the lemon zest!

Also, if you haven’t heard, there’s also a giveaway going on right now! Head over here for some Sipp Sparkling Organic sodas – a nice addition to your cocktail bar.Tangy Cider Fizz Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Now let’s start on those holiday cocktails…

2 ounces Carpano Antica
1 ounce apple cider
1 bar spoon brown sugar (or 1 non-packed teaspoon)
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice from half a lemon
4 ounces club soda, Fever-Tree used here
lemon peel for garnish

In a rocks glass, add one bar spoon of brown sugar. Pour lemon juice over the brown sugar and muddle until the sugar is dissolved. Add ice and then pour in Carpano Antica and apple cider. Stir gently to combine and then top with club soda. Garnish with a lemon peel.

**Someone online had asked me about batching this when I originally posted the recipe on Serious Eats and I actually think this would be a fine drink to serve pitcher style. Just mix everything except club soda together ahead of time (multiplied by your number of servings, omitting 1 teaspoon of brown sugar for every 4 servings). When ready to serve, either pour club soda into the pitcher, or top off each cocktail; entirely up to you how you want to serve.

The Irish Derby Cocktail

Irish Derby Cocktail // stirandstrain.comI’m sure that this week every aspect of your social media accounts are being filled to the brim with green drinks and Irish whiskey recipes. Well, this cocktail isn’t green but it does use Irish whiskey.

Usually, Jameson or Redbreast is drunk by itself in this household. Very rarely does it make its way into a cocktail, although there have been a few off nights when I’ve desperately wanted a Manhattan and used it as the base when there was not a drop of Rye to be found. So this week’s challenge to me over on the Serious Drinks site was to make a cocktail that uses Irish whiskey as the base and go from there. Initially I was at a blank until I started sifting through my new copy of Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails by Ted Haigh. Although at times I find myself pouring over the vintage Ads more than the words, the recipes collected here are a good history lesson for those of us interested in the world of cocktails; you need to know your beginnings.

Looking through here one realizes that many recipes are ready made for substitutions. I just had to find one for Irish whiskey, and in particular, Redbreast. The Derby cocktail stood out as one that might work, and after adjusting for tastes (woo there was a bit too much lime juice in here), it did. The original cocktail was bourbon based but utilized sweet vermouth, dry orange curaçao and lime juice. I upped the whiskey, downed the lime and added Angostura to balance it all out. What resulted was a light, slightly zingy cocktail where the whiskey played more of a supporting actor role.

1-1/2 ounces Irish Whiskey, such as Redbreast
1/2 ounce Carpano Antica sweet vermouth
1/2 ounce dry orange curaçao (can sub with Cointreau)
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice from 1/2 lime
2 dashes Angostura bitters

1 long lime zest for garnish

First, peel the zest from the lime using a channel knife, or use a sharp paring knife to curl a long continuous piece of peel from the lime. Set aside. Next, fill a shaker 2/3 with ice and add all ingredients. Shake for 20 seconds and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lime peel.

Strong essence of orange oil and sweet florals from the lime on the nose. The Redbreast is mellowed out by the sweetness from the angostura and curaçao, while the Angostura adds just a touch of bitterness that completes the drinks. Not your usual Irish drink.

And the winner of the barrel aged cocktail choice goes to…

Barrel Aged Hanky Panky (without a real barrel) // stirandstrain.comTwo weeks flew by around these parts and in that time a new cocktail was born. Well, the base you all will be familiar with, but the flavor profile? Totally new.

In the first post, I proposed the question to you all, What cocktail should get barrel aged (without a real barrel)? In this post I found that most of you would rather respond on every other form of social media except the post’s page. So I rounded up all of your responses, gave it a thought, and decided the cocktail would be…

A Hanky Panky!

First, thanks to you guys who gave up a lot more info on this process than I had in the instruction manual. All of your comments were super helpful in this process and tuned me in to the fact that I needed to taste daily. And you know what? After four days this baby was done aging with the stave. It did, however, require several more days of chilling out in the bottle before the taste was to my liking.

The jar holds 375ml, so count on about 3 full cocktails, or several small sipping shots.

6 oz. gin, Ford’s works well here
3 oz. sweet vermouth, Martini & Rossi used here
1 oz. Fernet Branca
6 dashes of orange bitters,Regan’s used here

  • Add the stave to the jar. Using a funnel, pour all ingredients into the barrel and seal.
  • Taste starting a day or two into aging. After 4 days I found that I was happy with the taste.
  • Strain mixture through cheesecloth, remove the stave from the jar, rinse the jar, and pour strained mixture back into the bottle. Cap and let sit for about 5 days in a cool, dark place.
  • After 5 days your Hanky Panky is ready to drink. Pour with ice into a strainer to chill, or sip straight out of the bottle too! Both work.

The flavor definitely has that “barrel aged” quality to it with a sweet, smokiness. On the nose there are hints of molasses, vanilla, raisins, pepper, honey, and smoke; not your typical Hanky Panky. The sweet vermouth is more pronounced while the Fernet Branca has softened considerably. In the barrel it’s been transformed into a richer, moodier version of a Hanky Panky.

Now on to thinking about what goes in there next…

The El-El After-Dinner Cocktail

El-El Cocktail // stirandstrain.comLet’s jump into this post with a story.

A few weeks ago I received an email from a friend of mine asking if I was available to make some drinks for a Thanksgiving-Hanukkah related dinner party. Not just any dinner party, one hosted by the guys behind The Table Set Podcast. I would be responsible for providing a dessert cocktail to accompany dessert. Naturally I jumped at the chance. And in the end, they let me do TWO drinks. The first one you guys have seen before, the Averna Highball, which proved itself a lovely companion to some Turkey Broth with Thanksgiving “Stuffing” Matzo Ball soup.

Dessert was going to be a new to everyone cocktail. Besides working as an ‘after dinner’ type drink, it also had to pair with the actual dessert (which you can find out more about by listening to the podcast. It’s a doozy! Look for it later this week.). In my mind, after dinner drinks fall into 3 categories: coffee, port and, well, more cocktails. For this drink I decided to dump them all into one cup. One tasty, caffeinated cup.El-El Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Prior to this, I had been considering infusing coffee into a rum to try out for drinks, and low and behold, the opportunity presented itself here. This is a quick infusion folks, so don’t go fretting about having to wait. I mean, it’s not going to be ready in an hour, but at least you’re not waiting a whole week!

The garnish you’re looking at is a nod to the dessert it accompanies, and no, it’s not the dessert you think it is. Since this was at a Thanksgivukkah dinner, originally I had thought of including a gold coin garnish (admittedly I know very little about the holiday, being raised Catholic and all, even we got these coins in our stockings at Christmas), but decided that a gilded pecan would look prettier (it does). Paired with a Luxardo cherry it’s also mighty tasty too.

The dinner itself was great, and I’m still dreaming about the dishes. Also, I learned how to actually play the Dradle game for real; and I won. And if you’re curious, the El-El is not a phonetically Jewish spelling of some sort. I just combined the names of the rum and coffee because I was drawing a blank on what to call it… real imagination here.El-El Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

1-1/2 oz. Intelligentsia El Diablo Dark Roast infused 15 year El Dorado Rum (see recipe below)
1/4 oz. St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram
1/2 oz. Yalumba Antique Tawny Port
1/2 oz. Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth

Garnish:
Maple Glazed Pecan (see recipe below) dusted with edible gold glitter
Luxardo Cherry

Combine rum, allspice dram, port and sweet vermouth in a mixing glass 2/3 filled with ice. Stir about 20 seconds and strain into a chilled miniature snifter glass. Garnish with a cocktail pick speared with the pecan and cherry.

Rich and decadent are the two words that first popped out of my mouth. Full coffee wafts up on the nose and stays on the palate. A spicy, bittersweet finish pops with each layer of flavor. This is definitely an after-dinner sipper with a lot of complex allspice, ginger and chocolate notes to it. It pairs wonderfully with a vanilla ice cream. So, if you’re looking for something to pair with dessert this holiday season, here you go.

Make It: Intelligentsia El Diablo Dark Roast infused 15 year El Dorado Rum

14 oz. 15 Year El Dorado Rum
1/2 cup Intelligentsia El Diablo Dark Roast

Combine ingredients in an airtight container (I reused my rum bottle). Swirl to cover the beans. Let sit for 2 days. Fine strain to catch any broken coffee beans. Bottle. Use within two years.

Golden Maple Glazed Pecans

Adapted from Food Network
1 cup pecans
3 tablespoons organic maple syrup
pinch of salt

Dry heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When pan is hot, add pecans, maple syrup and salt. Stir to combine and keep stirring until pecans are covered and syrup has evaporated from the bottom of the pan, about 3 minutes. Pour out pecans onto a silpat or parchment paper to cool. While still warm, dust edible gold glitter over the pecans. Shake off excess. (This is easier if you spear onto toothpick first.). Tastes best up to a week in an airtight container.

Action shot from dinner.
Action shot from dinner.

Big thanks again to Andy, Greg and Nathan from The Table Set for inviting me over to talk cocktails and for allowing me to serve strangers alcohol.

Also, in case you haven’t see all the tweets, Stir & Strain now has a Facebook page! You can find it over here.

Smoky Manhattan

I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Regan that the Manhattan is the “best cocktail on earth” (see Joy of Mixology). And while I thoroughly enjoy creating new, or (re)discovering old classics, sometimes I just want one. See today. I finally got to check out Bar Keeper in Los Angeles and as excited as I was to finally have the Mezcal from Del Maguey in my hands, I suddenly got a bit overwhelmed with what I wanted to make. Really, what I needed was a drink to have while perusing the PDT Cocktail Book I’d also just picked up. So my eyes went to the High West Campfire whiskey (a blend of rye, bourbon and a blended malt scotch whisky) and I thought to myself, why not a Manhattan with that?

On this gigantic shopping spree I went on in that tiny store, I also acquired a bottle of Carpano Antica. A lightly sweet and bitter Italian sweet vermouth that I see on just about every cocktail menu here in L.A. serving up a Manhattan. To balance out this drink I decided to stick with the Angostura bitters. I also upped the sweet vermouth since I found that the delicate nature of Carpano Antica was going to be competing with that Campfire whiskey. I’m thinking of trying this next time with a more assertive sweet vermouth so there would be less need to add extra.

2 oz. High West Campfire Whiskey
1-1/2 oz. Carpano Antica
3 dashes of Angostura bitters

1 Tillen Farms Bada Bing Cherry (or if you got them on hand, a Luxardo)

Drop the cherry into a chilled cocktail glass. In a mixing glass 2/3 filled with ice, add all the ingredients. Stir and strain into the glass.

The taste? A wonderful mouthful of smoke from the peated scotch whisky. The Carpano Antica rounds out the drink with its sweet and bitter notes, heightened with the spicy bitter of the Angostura.

It’s pretty powerful, and as such, not for everyone. The smokiness was too much for my husband at first (he’s not a scotch fan), although he’s coming around after another.

We Forgot About the Italians!! The Negroni

We all know a certain “holiday” is tomorrow, however I grew up in a predominantly Italian-American neighborhood (I even speak Italian, albeit I’m pretty rusty now, but I did study it for 7 years and can basically read it still) and two days before after St. Patrick’s day is St. Joseph’s Day. Now, as I have been without religion going on almost 20 years, I really don’t know (remember) much about the man, or what the holiday is about, not unlike St. Patrick as well (snakes and stuff, right?), but since I know that the 19th was another “holiday” or saint’s day or… there’s a lot of specific information that is becoming increasingly apparent to myself, and to you, that I am oblivious of… anyways, let’s make a drink to commemorate the oft-overlooked saint with a classic “Italian” (I’m sure this is disputed somewhere) drink, the Negroni. Hey, this means TWO celebratory reasons to drink this week. You’re welcome.

1 oz Campari
1 oz Gin
1 oz Sweet Vermouth

orange slice for garnish

In a rocks glass with ice combine all 3 ingredients. Garnish with the orange slice. Salute!

Bitters, Stocking Up and a Manhattan

I happen to work at a place that sells a lot of high end supplies and food and bar stuff here in Southern California. I own way more crap in my kitchen than I need due to the employee discount, however, it seems that I am lacking in the bar mixer ingredient department. Since I’ve set out now to become more active in learning about cocktails, I did a big stock up today. Falernum (how was I making Tiki Drinks without this stuff?), Fee Brothers: maraschino syrup, orange bitters, mint bitters, some luxardo cherries. Sweet! Now I have a couple more layers to work with here. Except.. what do I do with the bitters?

Well, I guess one should taste all of their ingredients first.

Unfortunately I tried the luxardo cherries first and decided I’d try the rest later as these were the most amazing things I’ve ever tasted. And I had to try a Manhattan with one of these little jewels resting in the bottom of my glass.

I am not 100% sure on the exact proportions of how much sweet vermouth really should go in here, but the recipe below is what I usually follow.

2 oz Rittenhouse Straight Rye 100 Proof
1 oz Sweet Vermouth
2 Dashes of Peychaud’s Bitters

1 Luxardo Cherry for garnish

Add a the cherry to the bottom of a chilled cocktail glass. Stir ingredients in a mixing glass filled 2/3 way with ice. Strain into the cocktail glass.

This Rye has a lot of sweet nose to it but is surprisingly not as sweet as I expected when straight up. Luxardo cherries also are not as cloyingly rich as you would expect. Even though as you strain one out of that dark, luxurious syrup in the jar, all you can compare it to is those maraschino cherries on your ice cream until you taste it. This is restrained sweetness. I feel like the sweet vermouth is what adds all the …sweetness (really am at a loss for another word here) to the drink. With a bourbon I would use less sweet vermouth, but here the proportions balance out. And at the end you get a nice boozy cherry.