Live Every Week Like It’s Negroni Week

It's like Shark Week, but for Negronis.

Remember when the Discovery Channel used to devote an entire week every year to shark-based programming, called, naturally, Shark Week?* And remember when people on the internet used to jokingly — or maybe not jokingly, or maybe they didn’t even know if they were joking or not —  “live every week like it’s Shark Week?” 

Well, that’s how I feel about Negronis. I try to live every week like it’s Negroni Week. Which is especially convenient this week, because it’s actually Negroni Week. 

So let’s celebrate! 

Negroni Week is a collaboration between the venerable drinks publication and Campari, which is in many ways the crucial ingredient in a Negroni. There are local bars and charities involved, and depending on where you live, you may be able to find a cocktail joint serving up classic Negronis and obscure Negroni riffs made for this week. 

Obviously I have not tried every participating bar, so I cannot vouch for many of them specifically. But in general I find that participating in Negroni Week is a sign that a bar takes the whole drink-making thing pretty seriously. At minimum, it’s a sign that the bar has invested at least a little bit of time in thinking about Negronis. 

But you can also celebrate Negroni week at home, and demonstrate that you, too, have spent at least a little bit of time thinking about Negronis. (One of my beliefs is that more people should spend time thinking about Negronis.) 

Negroni week is, of course, a great time to make a classic Negroni. But it’s also a good time to experiment with variations

And while I am aware that just a few paragraphs ago I wrote that Campari is “in many ways the crucial ingredient in a Negroni,” I did qualify that statement with “in many ways” for a reason. And that’s because the easiest way to riff on a Negroni is to substitute some other bitter liqueur for the Campari. 

If you have a weird amaro on your bar cart, or there’s some mysterious bottle of bitter booze that you’ve been tempted to try, this is the drink to try it in. 

You should always taste new bottles on their own — even just a quarter ounce sip will give you a clear sense of the taste. But dropping a new amaro into a Negroni format is, as far as I’m concerned, the best way to test-run that bottle’s cocktail properties. Doing so will tell you how it interacts with gin and vermouth, both of which you should know reasonably well. And it should give you a clear enough sense of the specific taste of the bottle, and which way the profile leans.

To bring this back to my own proclivities, I’ve recently been testing out a new bitter bottle — Carpano Botanic Bitter, a relatively new offering from the folks who make our beloved Carpano Antica Formula Vermouth. 

It’s root-y and citrusy, a little more vegetal than Campari but not nearly as earthy as Cynar. It reminds me a little of both Amaro Lucano and Amaro CioCiaro, but it’s very much its own thing. And, of course, it makes a great Negroni-esque cocktail.

For this drink, I stick with the same 4:3:3 ratio I use in my classic Negroni, which leads to a more balanced, less syrupy drink than the usual 1:1:1. Since this was a test drink intended to help me understand the properties of a new bottle, I went with the very standard, very familiar Beefeater for the gin. (This isn’t quite science. But when you’re running tests, you don’t want to introduce too many variables.) And since this is a bottle from Carpano, I decided to go with Carpano Antica Formula Vermouth. It’s bold, rich, and heavy, but it works quite well with the Botanic Bitter. 

Is this the best Negroni I’ve ever had? No, but it’s pretty good, and purely because of the novelty of a new bottle it’s a little more interesting than many of the versions I’ve had a dozen times already. 

Negroni-esque

  • ¾ ounce Carpano Botanic Bitter

  • ¾ ounce Carpano Antica Formula Vermouth

  • 1 ounce dry gin (Beefeater) 

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass.

  2. Add ice, then stir until chilled.

  3. Strain into a rocks glass over a large piece of ice.

  4. Garnish with a strip of orange peel. 

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*Apparently Shark Week is still happening. Who knew?

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Fine, Go Ahead, Make a Strawberry Daiquiri

Just add a single piece of fruit. That’s it. Really.

Happy Labor Day, everyone. 

Normally in advance of a long weekend I’d try to give you a project. But hopefully you are already working on your barrel-aged drinks. If not, this is a good weekend to get started. Remember to turn and test them! 

And anyway, it’s Labor Day. I don’t want to make you do too much work. 

So we’ll end the summer as we began it: with Daiquiris. But this time, they’ll be fruity.

When I last wrote about the Daiquiri, I started with a bit of skepticism about (or, fine, outright contempt for) the brightly colored frozen concoctions that were sometimes sold under the name. 

I stand by my previous remarks. Many of those drinks are syrupy and awful. Few of them are even really Daiquiris. But that’s not to say you can’t make good fruit Daiquiris. Indeed, fruit Daiquiris are quite easy to produce. And they make excellent liquid companions for long weekends while the weather is still warm. 

All you need are the three fundamental ingredients — rum, lime, and sugar — plus just a bit of fruit, ideally a single strawberry. 

Moving Beyond Fruit Syrup

The first method I learned for making a strawberry Daiquiri involved making strawberry syrup. This was basically a heated infusion of crushed strawberries into a 1:1 simple syrup. 

It’s not terribly difficult to make, but it does take some time. If you haven’t made it already, you’re not going to be drinking a strawberry Daiquiri in the next 15 minutes — or even the next few hours. Plus, you end up with a bottle of fruit syrup in your fridge for the next month. How many strawberry Daiquiris are you really going to drink?

As it turns out, however, there’s a much easier way. Just take a single strawberry (fresh, not frozen) and shake it inside your cocktail shaker with the rest of your drink. That’s really all there is to it. To make a fruit Daiquiri, you just make a Daiquiri...and add fruit. 

Like I said: This is Labor Day weekend. We’re not going to try anything too hard. 

This is a simple technique, but it’s surprisingly effective. The fruit gets pulverized in the shaker, integrating into the drink and giving the whole thing a bright, summery taste that’s fresh and distinct without being overpowering. It tastes, well…it tastes like a Daiquiri, but with a strong hint of fresh strawberry. It’s summery and delicious. 

Now, there are a couple of provisos: I like to cut the strawberry in half before shaking, which eases the integration process. It has essentially the same effect as, say, chopping a pineapple into chunks before putting them into a blender.

And while you can certainly make this with the Flor de Cana 4 Extra Seco I recommended at the beginning of the summer, I tend to prefer a slightly milder, less dry rum, something like Appleton Signature. It has less bite, and does a better job of sharing the spotlight with other flavors. 

Since you’ve got fruit solids in the shaker, you need to shake this one pretty thoroughly to integrate the ingredients — at least 10 seconds of robust, piston-like shaking

You also might want to double strain the final drink using a handheld conical strainer in order to eliminate any fine fruit particles that slip through your cocktail strainer. In my experience, however, a double strain is not strictly necessary. 

So there you go: Make a strawberry Daiquiri. Don’t be embarrassed about it. Just enjoy it.

Strawberry Daiquiri

  • 1 strawberry, cut in half

  • ¾ rich (2:1) simple syrup

  • 1 ounce fresh lime juice

  • 2 ounces rum (Appleton Estate Signature)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Combine all ingredients, including strawberry, in a cocktail shaker. 

  2. Add ice, then shake until thoroughly chilled.

  3. Strain (or double strain) into a coupe or Nick & Nora glass. 

  4. Garnish with an additional strawberry. 

The Fruit Daiquiri Expanded Universe 

Now that you’ve mastered the strawberry Daiquiri, it’s time to stop thinking of this as a single, specific drink. Instead, think of this as a generalizable technique for unlocking the wide world of fruit-flavored Daiquiris. 

Stick with the underlying rum/lime/sweetener formula — make sure to use fresh lime juice! — but try different rums, different sweeteners, and different fruits.

Have a bottle of mysterious rum you don’t know what to do with? Come across a stash of delicious-looking purple raspberries at your neighborhood farmer’s market? Want to try a Daiquiri with honey syrup? This is a great opportunity to mix and match. Just about every combination I’ve experimented with is pretty good — and many are much better than that. 

If you’re working from the tiny tiki bar I recommended earlier this summer, I recommend starting your fruit Daiquiri experiments with the Appleton Signature and the El Dorado 8 year.

But if you’ve got the whole set, try the other bottles too: Rum and fruit go exceptionally well together, and different rums will play differently with different fruits. This is a great way to learn more about the character of different bottles of rum and how they partner with other flavors. And of course, you can also try blending the rums.

For the fruit, I typically stick with berries: strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries all work exceptionally well with this structure. But I could imagine other fruits working too. I probably wouldn’t use an apple — it’s a bit too dense — but I would certainly try a peach slice, or even a cubed chunk of honeydew or watermelon. You just want something that will break up easily and release its juice during the shaking process. 

If you’re using a tart fruit with a bright tang, like raspberry, try balancing it with a single dash of Angostura aromatic bitters. This will give the drink a slight, winter-spiced richness that can keep harsher fruit notes in check. 

For the sweetener, you can always stick with simple (1:1) or (my preference) rich simple (2:1) syrup. But I’ve had great luck with cane syrup (blend two parts cane sugar with one part water) and honey syrup (whisk three parts honey with one part warm water) as well. And there are always ways to make use of demerara gum syrup, which goes great with dark, heavy rums.

Okay, fine — this is a little bit of a project.

But it’s only as time-consuming as you want it to be. Stick to the underlying structure, then gather some friends and try as many combinations as you (or your pals) want. Like I said, as long as you stick to the basic formula, the results are consistently excellent. Here’s one I was particularly fond of. 

Blackberry Daiquiri

  • 1 blackberry, cut in half

  • 1 dash Angostura aromatic bitters

  • ¾ ounce 2:1 cane syrup*

  • 1 ounce fresh lime juice

  • 2 ounces El Dorado 8 year

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Combine all ingredients, including blackberry, in a cocktail shaker.

  2. Add ice, then shake until thoroughly chilled. 

  3. Strain into a coupe or Nick & Nora glass.

  4. Garnish with a blackberry. 

*If you don’t have cane sugar or cane syrup, you can substitute rich (2:1) simple syrup. 

You can even move beyond whole fruits to fruity liquids. I’ve tried a lot of variations on this structure, and of all of them, my favorite is a simple addition of blackcurrant concentrate.

For this one, I used cane syrup and a somewhat unusual rum that’s not in my tiny tiki toolkit: The Scarlet Ibis, a blend of aged rums from Trinidad developed specifically for cocktails. The flavor is on the dry side, with a lot of dark, wintry notes. It’s fairly unique and hard to replicate with other bottles. But if you can’t find a bottle and you’re working out of the tiny tiki bar, you might try blending Appleton Signature with Rhum Barbancourt 4 year. 

And then instead of a piece of fruit, I included a single teaspoon of Blackcurrant Ribena that my wife happened to have around the house. 

On the one hand, the resulting drink is still quite obviously a Daiquiri. On the other hand, it has a distinct, unusual fruit note that subtly alters the entire cocktail without completely overtaking it. 

I’m making these for friends this weekend. I strongly recommend you do the same.

Blackcurrant Daiquiri

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Combine all ingredients in cocktail shaker.

  2. Add ice, then shake until thoroughly chilled. 

  3. Strain into a coupe or Nick & Nora glass.

  4. No garnish. 

*

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Happy Hour — a Low-ABV Summer Cocktail for People Who Don’t Like Campari

On the one hand, the Americano is a perfect drink, and I will hear no argument to the contrary. 

On the other hand, it’s not a perfect drink for everyone, because it involves Campari. And as we’ve discussed before, there are some people who simply don’t like the stuff, no matter what form it comes in. 

I am not one of those people. And honestly, I don’t know that I’ll ever truly understand the diehard Campari haters of the world. Deep down, I suppose, other people are always unfathomable mysteries. 

But I am aware that these people exist, and I am even quite friendly with some of them. So I try to respect their tastes. And I believe those people deserve an easy, low-ABV summer highball of their own. 

That’s why I created the following cocktail, a fresh, light, minimally boozy but still complex drink built on a base of the Cocchi Americano, an aromatized wine that drinks a little like a blanc vermouth. (Cocchi makes a variety of products, including a Di Torino vermouth I often recommend. These bottles are uniformly excellent, but do note that they are not substitutes for each other.) 

This drink does include a couple dashes of Angostura bitters. And as I’ve noted before, Cocchi Americano has a slight bitter flavor to it reminiscent of old Kina Lillet, before Lillet was reformulated. But it’s not truly a bitter liqueur like Campari or Cynar. It’s a sweet wine with some additional flavors. As a result, it should be enjoyable even to drinkers who are quite averse to bitter booze. 

That’s especially true in a cocktail like this one, which is essentially a Cocchi Americano sour transformed into a long drink with the addition of club soda. Underneath the club soda, it’s almost Daiquiri-like in structure, with just a little less sugar, since the Cocchi Americano provides some sweetness on its own.

This drink should appeal to fans of the French 75 — another cocktail that is basically just a sour with some bubbles on top. It’s sweet, light, and more than a little soda-like. And with its relatively low alcohol, it doesn’t ask too much of you, making it a great hot-weather happy hour drink. 

All the guidelines I provided for the Americano still apply. Mainly: feel free to adjust the club soda proportion, but don’t overdo it. Try to use a tall, narrow glass that isn’t too big (I use the same 10 ½ ounce Libbey Chicago glass for this drink that I do for the Americano). And regardless of what size or shape glassware you use, try to use the same glassware and the same amount of ice every time you make the drink, to ensure consistency. 

Sweet Child o’ Mine

  • 2 dashes Angostura aromatic bitters

  • ½ ounce rich (2:1) simple syrup

  • ¾ ounce fresh lemon juice

  • 2 ounces Cocchi Americano

  • 2-2½ ounces club soda, to top

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Combine all ingredients except club soda in a shaker.

  2. Add ice, then shake until chilled.

  3. Strain into a tall glass filled with ice.  

  4. Top with club soda. 

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