At 8:00 pm, Tuesday August 13th, the documentary "Hey Bartender" will make its Boston premiere at the Brattle theater in Harvard Square. Directed by Douglas Tirola, the film focuses on two bartenders trying to achieve their dreams from different backgrounds; one an injured marine, the other a white collar worker making a career change. Numerous influential brand ambassadors, bartenders and restauranteurs are featured from Danny Meyer to Dale Degroff and even some of Boston's own. This is a glimpse of a unique world and should appeal not only to industry workers, but also anyone interested in modern cocktail and bar culture.
After the screening the director will sit on a panel moderated by Patrick Maguire, with local bartenders Jackson Cannon, John Gertsen, Misty Kalkofen and yours truly. Tickets can be purchased here.
Years ago, John Gertsen would stop by and see me after his shift ended at Salamander which used to be next to the Boston Public Library's old building entrance. When he moved on to No.9 Park, even closer, the tradition continued. A bourbon and a high life, I would see him walking in and try to have his drink on the bar before he could get down the stairs. Some things haven't changed- although we don't see each other as much with busy schedules, he's still enjoying the same after work libation. What has changed is his notoriety and well deserved accolades, Drink was just named the best cocktail bar in the world at Tales of the Cocktail. Best bar in the world. Wow. I can't argue with the award, behind the bar the other night was a group of all stars: Palmer Matthews, Ezra Starr,
Will Thompson. Ezra made us a Southside and Dejeuner, both light, citrusy and elegant, perfect refreshment for a summer evening.
2 oz gin
.75 oz simple syrup
.75 oz lime juice
4 mint sprigs
Muddle mint lightly with the simple, add and shake all ingredients with ice and double strain into a coupe.
.75 grapefruit juice
.75 St. Germain
Shake all ingredients with ice and serve in a cocktail glass. Substitute lemon for the grapefruit and I call it a Shaddock.
Many deserving congratulations to the whole team at Drink, and I always have Mr. Gertsen's shift drink waiting.
Justin Stone is currently a manager at the DiBicarri brother's Tavern Road in Fort Point, Boston. He has worked in the hospitality industry as a doorman, busboy, maître d', server and bartender. In the fall, he will be part of the front of the house team at
Alden and Harlow, Harvard Square, Cambridge.
How many craftsman do you know? Working in food and beverage service is the closest I have come to working with and for craftsman. They are my favorite kind of professional colleague. I simply appreciate those who can make something out of a series of parts, using skills learned and developed over time. Cooks and chefs tend to get the accolades in my line of work. Just take a look at my Instagram feed for examples; I'm following three times as many chefs as bartenders. Maybe it's because cocktails don't photograph well at night, or it's possible that as of the moment, the chefs have the floor. Over the past few years, though, the word kitchen has been slowly married to the word cocktail into something of an awkward marriage. Is The Hawthorne a cocktail kitchen? I am sure that Ms. Carrie Cole would say “No.” I have heard many bartenders say that their bar space is an office. Others have remarked that the bar is a river where animals come to drink and get eaten by alligators. Both images conjure interesting associations, especially for those who have had to work the door on a busy weekend, but I digress.
When you place a food or drink order, a magically odd thing happens. You, the human being, perfectly capable of making a grilled cheese sandwich or a lemonade, have relinquished this responsibility to another human being. Expectations are set and a contract is written in the air. “My grilled cheese will appear as I have imagined it,” you think while reviewing the menu one last time before placing your order. It's a matter of trust. You are paying for the pleasure of not having to do a thing yourself. You are letting one whom is deemed “a professional” craft this item for you, sometimes without knowing what the end result will be. I contend that food and beverage service is the closest humans come anymore to the craftspeople who produce their consumer goods. I haven't visited a Chinese IKEA factory lately, so I can't vouch for the poor guy drilling holes in my Burjta bookcase shelves.
Trusting a craftsman used to be a necessity for those interested in purchasing quality consumer goods. You had to visit the carpenter for your chairs or the cooper for your casks. Nowadays, that relationship is diluted by matters of convenience. Who needs to shake the hand of the craftsman anymore? Who pays patronage to the hands and the brains behind something truly well-made? I believe that kitchens and bars are some of the last remaining places where people can regularly appreciate craftsmanship. I also maintain that the kitchen, especially in recent years, is receiving the bulk of the attention from the consumer. I would like to turn the focus to the bartenders for the time being. Sometimes, they're the only people I trust.
Two years ago I decided to pull up the roots again and move to Shanghai for work. I had visited the city while still living in South Korea and it seemed to have everything I wanted in a metropolitan environment: a vibrant nightlife, diverse expat population and a booming restaurant and bar scene. Luckily, I had an industry contact in the city. While on my reconnaissance mission in 2010, my contact took me to a bar in the Luwan district of Shanghai called The Alchemist. The Alchemist was unlike any bar I had seen in Korea. It was aesthetically well-designed, driven by a cocktail program, stocked with all sorts of wonderful spirits and directed by a man named Ryan Noreiks of Brisbane, Australia. Mr. Noreiks and I would develop a friendship over the following year and he would go on to share with me the best of his craftsmanship.
As with other beings in nature, bartenders come in many forms. You have your pint-pullers, your nightclub gun-slingers and the guy named Al who cracked beers at the VFW for your grandpa. There is no blueprint for what a bartender “should” be, but I do believe that out there in the ether, a formula exists which creates the perfect match of skill, service and professionalism. I've known hundreds of bartenders by acquaintance and had the pleasure of knowing a handful personally. I will venture to say that Mr. Noreiks ranks among some of the best, not because he is an upstanding fellow, but for one simple reason, he exuded craftsmanship through his work. He was a special breed. What I learned from him and his drinks changed the way I consider cocktails, customer service and presentation.
The cocktail list at The Alchemist resembled an old travel journal, much like the list at The Hawthorne. You could easily tell there was authorship behind it. For those customers interested in spending time considering their beverage, it was a lovely object to behold. It was not built for push-button ordering. A cocktail list should be more like a bar's resume or a statement than a multi-doored portal that ends in a buzz. It doesn't have to be pretentious, but it should represent the establishment and its bartenders. Over the years, I have come to be more interested in the people behind the drinks than the lists themselves. Rarely do I tip on product alone. I have had a hundred Manhattans, most of them shoddily composed. I know a good one after the first nip. What I'm looking for these days is craftsmanship, composition and creativity.
I made my way through The Alchemist's list in a matter of a month or so. It wasn't a daunting task if you had some friends to help. It was actually not my kind of list, heavy on the molecular side, very avant. I had no intention of repeating myself and going back to classics. One night, I remember it vividly, I asked Ryan to “give me his take on a Sazerac.” What Ryan produced was my first recognizable example of craftsmanship in a cocktail, something I like to call “Off List”. It wasn't complicated, but it was inspired.
2 ounces of Willett rye whiskey, 5 drops of cardamom tincture, 15 ml sugar syrup and 2 dashes of Peychauds bitters. Shake hard and double strain.
We called it “In Cold Blood”. It changed the way I drink cocktails and consider the craftsmanship behind a beverage. “Drinking off list” became a way of life at The Alchemist. Once Mr. Noreiks broadened my palate with “In Cold Blood”, once I could trust whatever came off his bar, I didn't want to go back to a list. However, without the man behind the drink, the experience was not the same. There had to be a marriage between the product and the craftsman. Given the chance to share with a guest not only craftsmanship but humanity, a skilled bartender should do both, simultaneously. What Ryan brought to the bar beyond his skill and charm was a genuine interest in my taste. He learned, he listened and put these interactions into a crafted drink based on my previous orders. In turn, I showed the same interest in his work. It's the best kind of service based relationship, one based on mutual appreciation.
Ryan and I continued our friendship along these lines for the remaining time that I lived in Shanghai. He moved on to renovate another bar called Yucca and I followed. At Yucca, on the slower nights, we would converse over the bar on all things spirits, service and hospitality. Towards the end of my time in Shanghai, I rarely ordered drinks by name. I wanted, more than anything, to be educated, to put the pleasure of discovery in the hands of a craftsman. It's not often that I can have this experience. I don't look down at my burrito and consider the man or woman who rolled it up in foil and paper. These days, when I visit a new bar, if there's a list, I'll generally order something from my wheelhouse. However, the drink that follows, if I dig the person wielding the shaker and spoon, will be up to them. I understand that this has been happening at “Drink” for years now. It's going on everywhere, even in the homes of people who have decided to practice the composition of cocktails on their own. Liquor stores carry better spirits, people read Imbibe magazine and David Wondrich's column in Esquire. Even apps help. We're moving forward as a consumer culture, hopefully towards a place where we once again consider the people behind the products and not just the brand.
I encourage you, the consumer, the customer, to seek out craftsman, to give them your patronage and to take an interest in their skill, their humanity. With your interest and curiosity will come the reward of discovery. You'll come to find that behind every wonderful drink or dish there is a human being who has spent years working towards that sweet spot between product and consumer. This is why I tip, why I return time and time again. This is why I come back and bring my friends and family. A stage can be as small as 6 ounces.
Dave and Will Willis of Bully Boy Distillers help kick summer into high-gear with the launch of their premium barrel-aged Boston Rum. True to Boston heritage and legacy it features a rich fruit flavor profile accompanied by vanilla, caramel and toffee- perfect for summer cocktails.
At Trade, Josh Mendez is offering up his take- an Old Cuban cocktail version on the rocks, made with Bully Boy Boston Rum, lime, mint, brown sugar and Champagne. Not the Hemingway Daiquiri, of course, he's calling it "Hemingway" because “after a couple of them you'll either be ready to A) get into a brawl, or B) run with bulls--both very Hemingway-esque activities.” I've always likened this drink to an elegant Mojito, and I love the Boston twist, I think the old man himself would have approved too.
Summer outdoors can be challenging in a heat wave (to say the least), but if you can get beach or poolside with a drink in hand, what could be better than a simple, delicious, effervescent cooler? Even looking at the photo below is mentally helping me cool down a few degrees.
Troy Sidle of Manhattan's Pouring Ribbons is sending his refreshing companion to Sunny Weather up north with sweetness of St. Germain, Ruffino Prosecco, perfectly balanced with more bitter Campari and grapefruit juice.
4 oz Ruffino Prosecco
1.5 oz grapefruit juice
.5 oz St-Germain elderflower liqueur
.25 oz Campari
Pour Ruffino Prosecco over ice in a collins glass until half way full
Add Grapefruit juice, St-Germain and Campari
Top off with more Prosecco as needed
Garnish with a grapefruit peel
Summer heat tends to make me lean toward lighter spirits, but I remembered a full bodied compromise the other day, the Hearst cocktail. The great David Wondrich credits the drink to the Waldorf-Astoria Bar where the drink came about to quench the thirst of "William Randolph's minions who were in the habit of dropping in at odd times when assigned to a story in the neighborhood." So, I guess, the old man himself may have never consumed his namesake drink- but I'm going to.
2 oz Plymouth gin
1 oz Carpano Antica sweet vermouth
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash orange bitters
Stir with ice, strain into a cocktail glass, orange peel garnish.
Gin's botanicals mix perfectly with the herbal and orange sweet/sour of the vermouth. Lighter for the warm weather, but still full bodied enough to please the Manhattan drinker (like me). Add a little Maraschino and you've got a Martinez, but that's a story for another day.
There are many summer cocktail round-up pieces out there, but as far as I'm concerned the more the merrier. I asked the following talented people for one of their seasonal favorites, put them in a blender (so no particular order), and listed them here. In my typical fashion, I am about as many days past the solstice of June 21st as number of cocktails in this post- seems to makes sense, at least to me.
Bad Leroy Brown by Thomas Tietjen at Trina's Starlite Lounge
.75 oz lime
.75 oz sweetened strawberry puree
1.5 oz Berkshire gin
Muddle mint, add ice and all ingredients. Double strain (pour through a small sieve to remove bits of mint) over fresh crushed ice and garnish with mint sprig.
Watermelon and basil Tequila Smash by Jon Berkowitz of Beantown Drinks
2 oz Infused blanco tequila* (email me for Jon's infusion tricks)
.75 oz fresh lime juice
.5 oz simple syrup
2 dashes Bittermens Hellfire Habanero Shrub Cocktail Bitters
Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a rocks glass with crushed ice and salted rim. Garnish with a watermelon slice, pinch of coarse black pepper and basil leaf.
Re-Fashioned by Todd Lipman at Bistro du Midi
1.5 oz Bulleit Bourbon
2 Lemon quarters (double check - no seeds)
2 bar spoons Luxardo Maraschino Cherry Syrup
2 Luxardo Maraschino Cherries
2 dashes Regan Orange Bitters
Place Lemon quarters, Luxardo Syrup, Luxardo Cherries and Orange Bitters into mixing glass, muddle. Add Bourbon, fill ¾ of the way with ice and shake vigorously. Add all contents of Mixing glass into a double old-fashioned. Top up with ice as necessary.
Bloody Monks by Erin Murtagh at The Salty Pig
1 oz Yellow Chartreuse
1 oz Green Chartreuse
.5 oz lime
.5 oz ginger simple syrup
2 dashes Erin's lavender & ginger bitters
Shake all ingredients with ice, strain over fresh ice and top with Sangiovese.
Latin Lebowski by Adam St. Jean at Vinebrook Tavern
2 oz Cachaca
3 barspoons Nestle Milo
1/8 tsp Ancho chile powder
Add cachaca, Nestle Milo and chile powder to mixing glass.
Fill mixing glass with ice. Fill glass with Lebowski mix to 1/2 inch
from top of mixing glass, shake well, pour into collins glass.
Garnish with grated cinnamon.
14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
18 oz whole milk
3 oz honey or agave nectar
Peru Barb by Meaghan Sinclair and Harmony Dawn of Booze Epoque
2 oz Pisco
1 oz rhubarb juice
1 oz strawberry rhubarb syrup
6 mint leaves
1 lime muddle strawberries, lime (cut into eighths), syrup, and juice in a mason jar. Add ice and Pisco, stir for several seconds. Garnish with mint and a strawberry.
The Market by Manny Gonzalez at Foundry on Elm
1.5 oz tomato, toasted corriander, pine nut infused Fords gin
.5 oz yellow Chartreuse
.5 oz simple syrup
.75 oz lemon
orange zest and lavender bitters
Shake with ice, double strain into a coup glass, orange peel garnish.
Between the Lines by Rob Dunn at Lineage
.75 oz Barbancourt Rhum
.75 oz Pierre Ferrand 1840 Cognac
.5 oz Aperol
.5 oz Combier
.5 eye dropper Tiki Bitters
.75 oz lemon juice
Shake ingredients with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.
JP76 by Angela Lamb and Bryce Mack at Canary Square
2 oz Bombay gin
1.5 oz strawberry and agave puree
.5 oz lemon .25 simple
Shake with ice and strain into a Collins glass with fresh ice, top with Prosecco.
So What (named after the 1st song on Miles Davis' Kind of Blue) by Sam Gabrielli at Russell House Tavern
.5oz green chartreuse
1oz cucumber shrub (cucumbers, sugar, salt, and rice wine vinegar)
.75oz Lime Juice
6-8 mint leaves
Shake with ice all but soda. Double strain into ice filled Collins glass and top with soda garnish with mint frawn.
Long Distance Runner by Evan Harrison at Highland Kitchen
1 oz Cocchi Americano (or Lillet Blanc)
.5 oz Yellow Chartreuse
.5 oz Aperol
.5 oz lemon juice
Shake with one ice cube, strain over new ice in a highball glass. Top with soda and agitate with a barspoon or straw to evenly distribute bubbles. Garnish with orange peel, "get tipsy."
Cherry Darling by the team at 51 Lincoln
2 oz homemade cherry lavender vodka
1.5 oz Contratto vermouth bianco
.5 oz Campari
dash simple syrup
Stir ingredients with ice, strain into cocktail glass, orange twist garnish.
Frida by Teodora Bakardzhieva at Rooftop@Revere
1.5oz Tanteo Jalepeno Tequila
2 oz Fresh Watermelon puree
.75 oz simple syrup
.5 oz lime juice
Shake all ingredients with ice, enjoy on the patio!
Paper Tiger by Ryan Mcloughlin at Blue Dragon
.75 oz Aperol
.75 oz Pig's Nose scotch
bar spoon honey, lemon, shake with ice, strain into a cocktail glass, in/out lemon twist.
Research & Debauchery by Mary Eades at Coppa
muddled orange and Luxardo cherry
2 dashes Angostura bitters
2 oz Del Maguey Crema de Mezcal
.5 oz Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur
Prepare as with an Old Fashioned, stir with ice in a rocks glass.
Tomas by Steve Schnelwar at 80 Thoreau
1.5 oz Bombay Sapphire Gin
.75 oz lime juice
.5 oz simple syrup
2 dashes plum bitters
Collins glass, ice, soda, Maraschino cherry garnish.
Fiery Rooster by Ginny Edwards at The Fireplace
1.5 oz Milagro Tequila
.75 oz Fresh Lime Juice
.75 oz Simple Syrup
.5 oz Domaine de Canton
Muddle Cucumber and Jalepeno, add ice and ingredients.
Shake and double strain, cucumber wheel and Sriracha dotted Jalepeno slice garnish.
I'm stepping out of the box again for a moment, and having a friend take over; it's the literary equivalent of a minor leaguer (me) having Lou Gehrig (Justin) pinch hit.
Justin Stone is a manager at the DiBicarri brother's Tavern Road in Fort Point, 343 Congress Street, Boston. He has worked in the hospitality industry as a doorman, busboy, maître d', server and bartender. He asks you "all to tip vigorously, mind the service bar and say please followed by thank you."
In the hospitality industry, we operate on a very simple economic principle authored by a lovely Italian man named Vilfredo Federico Damaso Pareto. Pareto’s economic principle, known commonly as the 80/20 rule, breaks down simply by stating, 80 percent of your business is generated by 20 percent of your customers. Now, you may ask, “How does this relate to bartending?” Well, any bartender will tell you that at the end of any night, if the regulars did not swing by for a drink or two, their take home will inevitably suffer. A bartender doesn’t necessarily rely on their regular customers for sustenance, especially on a busy night, but over time, the economic principles never lie. Frequent and return customers are the foundation of most successful hospitality enterprises and it’s an essential skill of a talented bartender that they identify, cultivate and nurture their “regulars”.
There’s no bartender that will disagree with me on this principle. The next time that you’re at the airport, stop by one of the bars, buy a round and strike up a conversation with the bartender. I guarantee that they have regulars, business travelers who fly a regular route from Boston to Charlotte and stop in for a drink before hopping on their flight. They don’t necessarily wait around on a weekly basis for these people to show up, but remove these individuals from any group of customers over the long term and most bartenders are reduced to piña colada factories instead of service professionals. Every bar has regulars and these people are the coveted jewels for any establishment. Transient guests may drive their budget or fluff the numbers at the end of a month, but it’s the customers who return time and time again, regardless of their purchasing power, that make the difference in a gratuity based service position.
Serving drinks, as I said, is a mixture of sales and technical skill and it’s very physical. The bar is a stage that is under constant surveillance, siege and bombardment. Head over to Eastern Standard on a Saturday night around eight and see what I mean. You have been there, wading into a three deep bar after work, competing with the throng for the eye contact of a bartender in the middle of shaking and pouring or snapping off a pint. In the midst of all of this physicality and dexterity there’s something every bartender is also doing, they’re watching the crowd. What they’re looking for are familiar faces, return customers, even the person they poured a drink for two hours prior who stopped by the bar for one last round. It’s about staying ahead of your tickets. Generally, a regular will have a preferred beverage and if a bartender sees that face amongst the crowd of drink list requests and whiskey smashes, they can at least take that person of the list of those who desire an inquiry.
Acknowledging regulars, delivering great service and being efficient are core bartending skills. It is a simple and beautiful relationship. The bartender stays on top of the ticket wave and the customer feels attended to, remembered and now they’ve got a drink without saying more than “Yes” or nodding. Find me another industry that can deliver that kind of service. Google, with all of their algorithms relating to your search history, will never be able to nonverbally connect with their customers like a good bartender can with their regulars. It’s a human relationship based on mutual understanding and as I said, it’s the foundation of every successful bartender’s repertoire. Everyone likes being remembered just as much as they like to be thanked.
The regular is more than just an easy way for a bartender to stay ahead of their orders. For a business, the regular is a one man public relations machine. True, the guy sitting at the bar five days a week at my beloved Quarterdeck in Hyannis isn’t the kind of PR machine I’m talking about. He’s just a good dude who works at the airport. Here in the city, a respectable establishment counts on their regulars to spread the gospel, invite their friends to join them on their usual nights and expound on the wonders of the hospitality. My bar visitation habits are almost 100% referral based. I won’t trust a person if they recommend at bar that they havent visited in the last week. My dollars are precious little things and I’d rather give them to a bartender who I’m counting on seeing from week to week instead of the guy who works at the bar next to the pool serving me a $15 Heineken.
In late 90’s I was a budding regular at a Brookline pub. I’d frequent the place on my own, walking a good 25 minutes up Harvard Avenue from my apartment just because this was a place where people knew my face and my name. This pub seemed full of regulars, somewhat neighborly and above all, geared first towards hospitality. I had a hell of a time convincing my friends to come with me for quite some time. If you made the decision to venture out with me, you had to come live on my hospitality island. I was always welcomed by name. My friends thought this was quite magical. What they didn't know was that I had put in my time, been a generous and patient guest, and now I had the title that we're discussing here, “a regular”. It's an intangible title, with somewhat elusive benefits to anyone other than the person upon whom the title is bestowed.
I need to make a few distinctions before I go further. There are a few customer-related misconceptions that I've noticed over the years from bar to bar. First, there are people who may come to the bar regularly and may often be recognized by name. However, I've found that there's a difference between someone with a mug hanging above the bar and the person who abides by the code of the “regular”. Repeated patronage does not make a regular. Charles Bukowski was a regular customer at a handful of L.A. Bars, but the bartenders probably hated his guts. If you're a bartender, you know these kind of customers exist. I once worked the door at the old Back Bay Last Drop. There were always customers that would come by around 1:55 AM every Friday night, buy a last call beer, and have to have me kick them out when all the chairs were flipped. They'd push back every time and felt slighted when I stood there and “made them” drink their beer while all the lights were on and the drawers were being counted. Were they regular customers, yes, but they weren't “regulars”. Regulars know when to pay, when to leave and they always say “Thanks” to the bartender on the way out if they can.
Knowing the bartender's name doesn't necessarily make you a regular either. This is also a common sticking point with customers I've dealt with over the years. Come into a bar one afternoon, drop a hundred or so with some of your friends and the bartender, out of sheer salesmanship, might introduce himself before handing you the bill. It's common hospitality. You might come back every Sunday afternoon and be this bartender's bread and butter on the brunch double. However, if you truly care about making your mark, come back solo, make friends with other guests, feel the bartender's pain when it looks like they've had a long night. Tip two bucks on your $3.00 High Life. Build the relationship, make it personal.
A couple of weeks ago I announced to one of the Curley's crew that I had left my job in the neighborhood and taken a position over the river. No more jaunts to the bar on the way home from work. Cambridge and Somerville would become my exclusive territory. One of the lovely people at Curley's asked a question that I think every newly minted customer wants to hear, “Does this mean you'll not be coming back?” I said that I'll most certainly be back as often as possible. I was already halfway through the first half of becoming someone of value – we had passed the name barrier and I've seen some of the bartenders out at other joints. Not returning because of geographic limitations would violate an my old model that I developed back in Brookline, when I walked uphill both ways to get to the pub, despite the weather or lack of companions. We're regulars because we love to be remembered. We love to participate in the great hospitality game. We cherish our relationships and do our best to nurture them with our patronage and good graces. In the end, the great karmic wheel spins for both bartender and customer alike. It's the last vestige of person to person relationships built on mutual appreciation. You can't hashtag that, brother.
America (or in this case 'Murican) and the 4th of July; I'm riding shotgun, driving is noted Campari enthusiast Steve Bowman who co-owns the forthcoming Fairsted Kitchen, opening Fall 2013 in Brookline’s Washington Square. Take it away Steve:
The ‘Murican: A Bitter Pedigree by Steve Bowman
Summer is the season of the aperitif. As the dog days swelter and the lithium rises, it’s time shelve the weighty, spirit laden refuges of winter and look for something new. Something light, something cool, something refreshing. Something you can quaff all day on decks and patios and still make it to dinner. Something like Campari.
Look around your favorite watering holes this summer and you’ll see its brilliant red hue shining like a beacon from within glasses and tumblers of imbibers in the know. Not only is the bright and bitter Italian infusion of herbs, fruits, spices, and barks a perfect on its own with nothing more than a little ice and a twist of citrus, but Campari is the proud papa of a whole family of thirst quenching aperitifs.
It all starts with in Gaspere Campari’s little cafe in Northern Italy in the mid 1800’s where he crafts his soon to be famous eponymous liqueur. There he serves a simple mixture of Campari and sweet vermouth called the Milano-Torino. The Campari is from Milan, the vermouth, either Martini & Rossi or Carpano, is from Turin. Soon enough, an enterprising bartender adds a top of soda water and serves his creation long in a highball. He names it after the American tourists that flood Italy after the first world war and the Americano is born.
But it takes a true rogue, a member of what cocktail historian David Wondrich calls the “Sporting Fraternity” to create a classic both modern and timeless. Florentine gentleman Count Camillo Negroni, aristocrat, rodeo cowboy, gambler, and barfly extraordinaire, is no stranger to the Americano. But one day between 1919 and 1920, Count Negroni finds himself craving something a little stronger. He stops in at his local, the Cafe Casoni, and directs the barmen to replace the soda water in his Americano with a little gin. Soon enough, locals start requesting their Americano in the “Negroni way”. That recipe of equal parts gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari, has stood the test of time to become a standard of the cocktail craft.
But history doesn’t stop there. From the hands of adventurous barkeeps you can now enjoy a Negroni Sbagliato, a “wrong” negroni replacing the gin with prosecco. Or Negroni riffs based on genever, whiskey, or tequila. I’ve even seen a Negroni sorbet. Inspired by the traditions of Gaspare Campari and Camillo Negroni, I present my answer to summer's oppressive heat: The ‘Murican. Find the biggest glass you have, add equal parts Campari and sweet vermouth and fill with lots of ice. Top with America’s finest champagne of beers, Miller High Life, and garnish with freedom. Or a slice of orange. Whatever you have on hand.