Five Drinks of the Bitter and Stirred Variety

The canon of strong, stirred and bitter cocktails extends far beyond the Negroni and the Boulevardier. Here are five new-age bitter riffs on everything from the Manhattan to the Old-Fashioned.

The Night Shining: Keeping it kümmel. [Recipe]

Big Chief: A drink with mileage. [Recipe]

Bitter Handshake: Nice to meet you. [Recipe]

The Bachelor: Single and ready to mingle. [Recipe]

Polka Dot Negroni: Nothing spotty here. [Recipe]

Though the Negroni (and, to a lesser but no-less-worthy degree, the Boulevardier) has earned a reputation as the all-occasion stalwart of the bitter drinks canon, it has also made for a sort of gateway drug for the current bitters boom. From aromatic bitters to amari, for years there’s been a steady proliferation of bitter drinks, many of them new-age riffs on classic stirred cocktails.

Such is the case with The Bachelor, an Old-Fashioned-Sazerac hybrid from Brooklyn’s Maison Premiere, whose flavors of candied orange, caramel and saffron soften the drink’s amaro- and absinthe-laced edge.

Likewise, in New Orleans, Abigail Gullo, formerly of SoBou and now at the helm at Compère Lapin, channels her Sicilian heritage via Averna (“It’s what I imagine my great-great grandfather doing a shot of [along with some espresso] before he left Palermo”), which she mixes with bourbon and Punt e Mes, for a modern drink (the Big Chief) that takes inspiration from both the Brooklyn and the Manhattan cocktails.

And for those in search of something that takes its cues from the granddaddy of bitter and stirred drinks, there’s Toby Maloney’s famed Polka Dot Negroni, an amicable spin on its predecessor that swaps out Italy’s iconic red bitter liqueur in favor of the herbal, saline Salers Gentiane Apéritif from France.

Like Maloney, Ali Reynolds of the Hawksmoor Spitalfields Bar also flips the script by taking the caraway-infused kümmel—which typically makes its appearances in shaken, citrusy drinks—and doing what any sensible person would: He stirs it with Campari and aged rum in his The Night Shining.

Meanwhile, back on this side of the Atlantic, Andrew Bohrer calls on the bitter Everest of digestivi, Fernet Branca, for his version of the ideal epilogue. In his Bitter Handshake, he pairs it with a blood orange reduction and rye whiskey syrup for a drink that resembles a distant cousin of both the Negroni and the Old-Fashioned, and one that perfectly captures the transgressive allure of the bittersweet.

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