Jeff Faile, bar manager of Penn Quarter's Fiola, has made a name for himself as "the bitter guy." When Gran Classico was brought back into the US by Tempus Fugit, Faile was quickly hooked. "Gran Classico is more reserved and less viscous than Campari," says Faile, "it has a greater depth of flavor." His fixation with Negroni variations began with a Negroni Classico, in which he uses Gran Classico in Campari's place. It's a beguiling drink, deeply flavorful, but also a bit lighter than the original.
Branching out from the Negroni Classico, Faile has crafted an evolving list of Negroni-inspired cocktails that occupies an entire page of Fiola's cocktail menu. Currently clocking in at six ($14 each), the list includes a Negroni based on pisco, a clear version with Cocchi Americano and Dolin Blanc, and a richer one made with Barolo Chinato and Old Tom Gin. Each variation exposes new flavor possibilities for the drink: bitter and herbal to light and citrusy, a Negroni for every season and a wide range of cravings. Lucky for you, we got the recipes for 4 favorites.
Faile says this one is probably his favorite on the list. "I fully admit I love Campari, but I love Gran Classico even more. Gran Classico isn't quite as bitter as Campari, but I don't find the sugar content to be as high as Campari's either. I find this version to be a bit lighter and easier version to drink than the traditional Campari version of the Negroni."
"I first saw this done at PDT in NYC," says Faile. "They have a different recipe and use Suze instead of Cocchi Americano. I found Cocchi Americano to be slightly more accessible to most people." For the gin element, Faile chose The Botanist gin, which is made in Islay. "When I first heard about it and tasted it, I had the Islay malts profile in my head. The gin was the polar opposite. It's light, clean, and floral...a perfect summertime gin and perfect for this summertime version of the Negroni."
This variation is made with Old Tom gin, Barolo Chinato, and Kina L'Avion D'Or. "This one is the most recent addition to the list. I put it on the list for Valentine's Day, and it's been so well received it's been hard to take it off," says Faile. "The Ransom Gin is a heavier style gin and demands the equally heavy Barolo Chinato in there to stand up to it. The Chinato adds nice chocolate notes to the drink while the Kina brings out the fruit and floral notes in both the Chinato and gin."
The only non-gin Negroni on this list, Faile named this drink after "one of the best bartenders in DC, JP Caceras. He has an unmatched love for pisco, so this drink is a tribute to him," says Faile. "This is also the most bitter Negroni on the list. Amaro Nonino adds the slightest bit of sweetness with the orange notes found there. Bittermens Amer Nouvelle has a bitter orange and gentian flavor that pairs well with the other two spirits."
About the author: Brian is a Washington, DC based international development professional, food lover, and photographer. In his free time, you can usually find him chasing down a good burger or slice. Follow him on Twitter @brianoh11.