If you ask us, the holidays are as much about reinvention as they are tradition. Sure, you always watch the same movie the morning after the big meal, but it's also time to start thinking of some overly ambitious New Year's resolutions.
Ours? To create the perfect holiday cocktail, one with a rich blend of bitter and sweet, and just enough punch to keep you warm. With hints of vanilla, oak, citrus, and something you can't quite put your finger on, but definitely makes you want a second round. Meet the…er, actually we're not sure what to name this thing, but more on that later.
Rather than starting from scratch, we started with a bartender favorite, the classic Negroni. We literally started there, literally – drinking them while brainstorming – but also with some inspiration from how it came to life.
The story goes that the Negroni was invented in Florence in 1919 by aristocrat and local man-around-town Count Camillo Negroni. He'd sauntered into Bar Casoni, a bar famed for their Americano, a vermouth and Campari blend, watered down with club soda. Count Negroni, a regular, asked for one toughened up with gin instead of club soda (wonder what kind of day he'd had). And it quickly caught on, as you know from the last 100 years of bar menus (and Instagram).
Our origin story takes place in a New York City kitchen, rather than a storied aperitivo joint in the plazas of Florence. But we like to think it carries some of the same sense of serendipity and innovation. Snowe co-founder Andrés Modak and some friends started a throwing-spaghetti-at-the-wall quest for a winter-fied Negroni (again, after starting with a few Negronis themselves). Something to hit that pre-dinner spot just as perfectly, but swaddle you in warmth and comfort at the same time. After some gone-wrong experiments, they got it – that perfect spicy yet comforting blend, a veritable fireplace in a glass.
Naturally, it started with Campari, the Italian-born spirit that’s singularly responsible for the rise of aperitivi this side of the Atlantic. From there, things start getting a little weird, but stay with us. Instead of gin, Andrés and co. opted for calvados, an apple or pear brandy from Normandy. It infuses the drink with the taste of a cold-weather snap in the middle of autumn: a fine whisky-like finish emboldened by heavy hints of caramel and apple. It makes for a much tastier overall profile than the gin you'll find in a Negroni.
Finally, in place of vermouth, comes the real good stuff. Zucca rabarbaro. It's easily Andrés' favorite amaro, to the point that he's just as happy sipping it on the rocks as he is pouring it into concoctions like this one. “All the flavors and spice notes meld perfectly – almost magically,” he says. Those flavors and notes? Chinese rhubarb, cardamom, and citrus, all together in a decidedly non-medicinal bitterness, tempered by a rich sweetness. Focus on it enough, and there's even a bakery-like aroma that carries with the zucca rabarbaro, a coziness that spreads to the other ingredients.
One sip and we knew this was what was going to be on heavy rotation at our holiday party. It's light enough for repeats – none of that 80-proof gin to knock you off balance – but rich enough to sip by a fire in an ugly sweater. Thank you, Count Negroni for the inspiration: Sometimes, even if it ain't broke, you can fix it.
So, back to that name. What do we call this thing? We want your help. Submit a name on Instagram and enter for a chance to win bragging rights and a $250 gift card (we can only assume you'll use part of it for a set of short tumblers, the perfect vessel to drink this beauty in).
How to make it:
A Negroni is famously three equal parts of three ingredients. Take the same approach with this, but sub in calvados instead of gin, and zucca rabarbaro instead of vermouth. Once you've got the basic formula down, feel free to experiment a bit to see what you like best. Want something a little more boozy and a little less bitter? Try putting 1.5 parts calvados to one part each of the other two ingredients. Garnish with an orange or orange peel, Negroni style, go full winter festive with a stick of cinnamon or a sprig of rosemary. Or keep it simple (and Manhattan-inspired) by topping with some real Luxardo maraschino cherries. Though yes, the neon ones will work in a pinch.