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[Photographs: Linda Xiao]

"This one's a good introductory bitter cocktail and a good introductory boozy cocktail," says Philip Ward, co-owner and bartender of East Village tequila and mezcal palace Mayahuel. "It's bitter and boozy, yet gentle in both ways."

The Rosa Amargo, a creation of Mayahuel bartender Jeremy Oertel, is a smoky, grapefruit-tinged Negroni variation, served up. The Negroni's protagonist, Campari, is a natural match for grapefruit, Ward explains: "It implies grapefruit where there is none."

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He draws out this flavor with a half ounce of Combier Pamplemousse liqueur and a half ounce of Dolin Blanc vermouth. "Dolin Blanc is extremely soft," notes Ward. "It plays well with just about anything and has a great affinity with grapefruit. It has some nice floral notes; it adds a little fat."

Rosa's real curveball comes in the form of one and half ounces of mezcal, an ideal foil for the citrusy undertones. Ward expresses grapefruit on top, spraying its oils on the drink and rubbing it against the glasses rim before discarding. "It's hard to infer or incorporate citrus into boozy drinks, but its nice when you can," says Ward. There's no fresh grapefruit present, but it's a major player in the drink.

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The sum of these parts is one of the most fun drinks you'll find in the "stirred and strong" cocktail arena. It smells far sweeter than the vermouth allows it to be, and tastes like so much more: stiff and smoky, with subtle hints of bittersweet, and tart.

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Rosa Amargo from Mayahuel, NYC »

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