Negroni Week

White Smoke

1 oz Old Tom Gin [Hayman’s]
1 oz Suze
1 oz Lapsang Souchong Infused Dry Vermouth*

Stir with ice, strain into an ice filled rocks glass. Garnish with lemon twist.

* Steep two tea bags in a 375ml bottle for about an hour, tasting every ten minutes after 30 mins. Remove tea bags when desired flavor is reached.

Hey everyone, it’s one of the most wonderful times of the year in the cocktail world – Negroni Week.  Bars across the country serve the classic gin/Campari/sweet vermouth drink, or their own variations, all the while donating proceeds from those drinks to their favorite charities.  Can’t beat being a barfly and a philanthrope all at once.  Not surprisingly, many homebartenders get into the act themselves.

One of the things the classic negroni is known for is it’s striking red color (thanks, Campari.  Oh and you too, sweet vermouth).  An often played twist on the drink starts with the color.  Swap in a different bitter liqueur (usually Suze) for Campari and Lillet or Cocchi Americano for sweet vermouth (dry vermouth works too), and you’ve got yourself a white Negroni.

As luck would have it, I have both these items in my bar as we speak.  Usually I’d say the Suze is the outlier, as dry vermouth is a staple around here.  But, a week or so ago I tried my hand at a tea infusion for the first time.  And what spirit did I choose to infuse – you guessed it, dry vermouth!  So, time to really put my Lapsang Souchong infused dry vermouth to the test and mix up a white negroni.

First a word on Lapsang Souchong.  It’s an earthy black tea from China that is finished over a pine fire.  I honestly never knew tea could smell or taste like this!  I’ve seen other people infuse various spirits, and decided to have a go myself.  Instead of infusing a base spirit, I chose dry vermouth for two reasons.  One, I felt like I could use it in a wider variety of drinks.  Two, the relatively mild flavor (as far as spirits go) of dry vermouth would really let the tea shine.


Now back to the drink.  With two out of three ingredients checked off, all I needed was the base spirit.  Gin is traditional, but with the strong, herbally Suze and smoky black tea, I felt it needed some more balance.  A touch of sweetness from Old Tom Gin did just the trick.  The nose is full of smoke and herbs, with a wisp of citrus in the background from the lemon twist.  On the sip, bitterness from the Suze is immediately detectable, but the Old Tom goes its job and keeps it in check.  A cloud of smoke envelopes everything, as various botanicals pop their head through.  A sweet, dry, puckering finish lingers on the swallow.

I’m not gonna lie, this drink isn’t for the faint of heart.  Bitter and dry from start to finish, with hints of sweetness throughout.  It’s a tasty yet challenging drink, but one I’m glad I threw together.  So enjoy the rest of Negroni Week and don’t forget to get out there and do some charitable drinking!

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