Every cocktail tells a story. The Kula Negroni, created by Julie Reiner, is one of twelve cocktails that star in the Campari Red Diaries calendar, which guides viewers through 2017 with short films representing each month.
Each has a globally renowned bartender as the narrator and focuses on the ethos that “every cocktail tells a story.” Reiner, a celebrated mixologist, and her Kula Negroni cocktail represent America in the calendar.
“Every cocktail tells a story.” Talk to us about this concept and how it relates to your work in the bartending industry.
Creating cocktails is a very personal thing. I can look back at drinks I have produced for menus and remember exactly what was happening in my life at the time. Oftentimes we are looking to make guests feel something when they taste a cocktail we have created. The Campari Red Diaries looked at this idea in a very whimsical way, telling a story inspired by each bartender’s life experience.
Tell us about the story behind the Kula Negroni cocktail.
The Kula Negroni is a very summery fruit-forward Negroni variation. When I go home to Hawaii, I make strawberry-infused Campari to drink in Americanos, Campari and soda, and spritz. The infusion adds a fruit note that makes it a little bit more summery and fruit-forward. I was raised in Hawaii, so warm tropical weather is my comfort zone. The drink was inspired by the strawberries that I buy from organic farms on Maui. They are so delicious and complement the Campari in such a beautiful way. The story that was created for the Kula Negroni is a dream-like memory of the island.
In your opinion, how influential is a bartender’s background and experiences on the ingredients/flavors with which to create an original cocktail?
We all reach for what we know when mixing drinks. A bartender’s personal experience can have a huge impact on his or her cocktail styling. Bartenders who travel frequently, taste more food, spirits, and drinks, and have a lot of memories to draw from when they are working on new drinks. Being from Hawaii, I gravitated toward tropical flavors in the beginning of my career such as lychee, mango, macadamia nuts, etc. The more I got out there and tried new things, I was able to incorporate those new flavors into my drinks. Bartender’s original creations tell a lot about them if you really look at their flavor combinations and spirit choices.
What should bartenders know about mixing with Campari?
Campari is an iconic brand with a fascinating history. It is so easy to work with, and adds so much depth and flavor to cocktails. Campari is very versatile, working well in so many styles of drink. There are so many Aperitifs on the market now, and they come in and out of style, but Campari is truly the epitome of class and style, and never goes out of fashion.
Bartenders are storytellers, in more ways than one. Can you tell us about the ‘experience’ of drinking nowadays? What makes for a great story?
Life experience. It is a bartender’s job to make guests feel better when they leave the bar than when they arrived. That could mean taking their mind off of current events, or having a conversation about different topics. At my bars, we promote well-rounded bartenders who can talk about anything, often we encounter bartenders these days who only want to discuss the bitters that they made. This isn’t so exciting to everyone who enters the bar.
Concerning flavor, what flavor profiles do you fine timeless and why? Any favorite ingredients/flavors you always seem to go to?
Citrus (sours) is the most basic and timeless of flavors in cocktails. I am really all over the place, depending on the season. My cocktails tend to reflect the weather; and the feeling of the season we are in.
- 1 oz. strawberry-infused Campari
- 1 oz. Cinzano Vermouth Bianco
- 1 oz. London Dry Gin
- Orange Twist (for Garnish)
- Strawberry (for Garnish)
Preparation : In a mixing glass, combine ingredients; add ice and stir. Strain over one large ice block in a rocks glass. Garnish with orange twist and a fresh strawberry.