Los Angeles Bartenders Take on the Negroni.
When you mess with classic cocktail recipes, you better know what you’re doing. If you don’t, two things may happen.
First, you stand to annoy or even enrage cocktail devotees. Second, you will make something that tastes awful. Los Angeles bartenders have neither of these problems, riffing on the classics with such ease that they create new classics. This is especially true when it comes to Negronis. Below is an array of Negroni recipes that mix things up by substituting everything from mezcal and cachaca for the usual gin to alternatives for the traditional Campari. Any way you mix these, they still feel like Negronis — elegant, bittersweet, and ideal for a thoughtful respite from the day’s worries.
The Taco Truck
Courtesy of Beau DuBois, Corner Door (Culver City)
According to DuBois, the drink’s creator, “The Taco Truck is one of my favorite Negroni variations that also plays to the hearts of Mezcal lovers, a spirit that has permanently carved out a spot in every [Los Angeles] neighborhood’s favorite bar over the past few years. But it can’t stop there, a simple Mezcal Negroni is great, but it lacks a specific “fingerprint” that makes it exclusive to the establishment. Infusing the Campari with Pineapple and Cinnamon acts as a “tip of the hat” to the Mezcal, providing flavors that subtly enhance the recipe without masking or blurring the balance.”
- 2 oz. Mezcal (Fidencio Clasico Mezcal, recommended)
- 1 oz. Pineapple & Cinnamon-infused Campari *
- 1 oz. Sweet Vermouth (Dolin Sweet recommended)
- *Pineapple & Cinnamon-Infused Campari
- 1 Pineapple
- 3 Cinnamon Sticks
- 2 Bottles Campari
Preparation: Remove stalk, skin and core of pineapple and rough chop into 2″ chunks. Place inside 1 gallon jar. Toast cinnamon sticks until smoldering and then place inside jar with pineapple chunks. Add all the Campari and seal the jar. After 24hrs, remove cinnamon and then reseal the jar. After 72hrs, strain out the pineapple but be sure to press the juice out of the chunks. Finely strain and bottle.
To Make the Cocktail: Stir with ice and strain into a rocks glass over a large cut piece of ice. Garnish with an Orange Peel.
Courtesy of Ryan Hughes, City Tavern (Culver City)
In Hughes’ cocktail, the gin remains, but the Campari takes a vacation while rich, almost chocolate-y Carpano Antica, Cardamaro (a wine-based amaro flavored with cardoons), and the bartender favorite Fernet Branca.
- 2 oz. NOLET’S Silver Gin
- 1/2 oz. Carpano Antica
- 1 oz. Cardamaro
- 1/2 oz. Fernet Branca
- Grapefruit Peel, for garnish
Preparation: Stir with ice and strain. Garnish with grapefruit peel
Negroni Three Ways No. 3
Courtesy of Michael Neff, Three Clubs (Hollywood)
Neff adds a savory note to the bittersweet character of the Negroni with a pinch of salt, as well as a complementary bitter quality with the grapefruit juice.
- 2 oz. Suerte Tequila Blanco
- 3/4 oz. Campari
- 1/2 oz. Noilly Pratt Sweet Vermouth
- Dash Fresh Grapefruit Juice
- Pinch Salt
- Orange Twist, for garnish
Preparation: Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass. Stir until well chilled. Serve up with an orange twist.
Courtesy of Nancy Kwon, Copper Still (Midwilshire/Hancock Park)
Kwan shows us that even Cachaca is up to a Negroni variation, which features Luxardo Bitter instead of Campari.
- 20 ml Avua Prata Cachaca
- 20 ml Luxardo Bitter
- 20 ml Maurin Blanc Vermouth
- Orange peel, for garnish
Preparation: Stir over ice in a mixing glass. Strain into a cocktail glass or coupe. Garnish with an orange peel expressed over the drink.
Lambretta No. 2
Courtesy of Dan Long, Big Bar (Los Feliz)
A Negroni variation for non-gin — or any spirit — lovers. Here, the Campari takes center stage with a slight sweet lift from the Lillet Rose and some fizz from tonic. A Collins-like alternative that turns this into a perfect aperitif.
- 1 oz. Campari
- 1/2 oz. Lillet Rosé
- 1/2 oz. lemon juice
- 1/4 oz. orange juice
- 2 oz. tonic
- Mint Sprig, for garnish
- Orange Peel, for garnish
Preparation: Shake and strain into wine glass. Top with ice. Add 2 oz of tonic. Garnish with a mint and orange peel.