Naren split the talk into two aspects. The first was the more expected -- suggesting aperitif recipes, while the second was how to heighten the experience by making it memorable. For example, why put a Dry (Vermouth) Martini on the menu? If you can do it well or unique, call it out. At Saxon & Parole, Naren's 5:1 Martini was listed as "Dry Martini Service" with gin, vermouth, and "accoutrements." An old school sized glass, a sidecar carafe with the rest of the drink stored in crushed ice, and a trio of garnish possibilities of an olive, onion, and a knotted lemon twist all aesthetically displayed. Instead of relying on store bought pickled olives and garnishes, why not make them in house with matching botanicals?
While Fernet Branca may be the bartenders' shot, the Negroni has become the bartenders' cocktail over the last 5-6 years. It is a safe drink and good even when made poorly. Naren's preference is a little extra gin heavy at 1:3/4:3/4 to help to dry out the sugar-laden amaro and vermouth components; moreover, stirring on ice and straining over fresh ice, especially a single large ice cube, is his go-to technique. Also take a step backward from Negroni and consider the Americano a/k/a Torino Milano for an aperitif. At Bacchanal, Naren served a variety of seasonal Negronis on tap such as the Chocolate Negroni:
Chocolate NegroniThe Boulevardier and the Old Pal, the rye Negroni variations with sweet and dry vermouth, respectively, from 1927's Barflies and Cocktails are other classic ways of tinkering with the Negroni. Two other variations, the Negroni Sbagliato (1 oz each Campari, sweet vermouth, prosecco) from 1972 and the Negroni Bianco (1 oz gin, 3/4 oz Aperol, 3/4 oz bianco vermouth, 2 dash lemon bitters) were also noteworthy. In addition, Naren shared his thoughts on the bottled Champagne Negroni (pictured below). Bottling equipment is rather cheap and most of the work is backend time. While guests wait for tables on a busy Friday or Saturday night, it will boost the guest experience. Moreover, the staff will love making the sale with the only front end work being popping a cap.
• 1 oz Gin
• 3/4 oz Campari
• 3/4 oz Sweet Vermouth
• 1 dash Creme de Cacao (or other white chocolate liqueur)
• 2 dash Chocolate Bitters (to dry out the drink)
Serve with a dehydrated orange wheel garnish (quicker to garnish with attractively during service) and fresh orange oil (so that the fresh twist does not need to look perfect).