Rob Aschliman, an alum of Richmond’s The Rogue Gentlemen, is an expert at making Negronis. So it’s only fitting that a variation on the favorite should make an appearance on his debut menu as bar manager at the newly opened Shiptown, on Norfolk’s Colley Avenue.
Aschliman begins with The Botanist, a Scottish gin that uses 22 botanicals to add a bit more complexity to this traditional London dry. Campari, an Italian bitters, is added next.
The vermouth is where things get interesting. Aschliman uses a blend of Carpano Antica, a traditional sweet vermouth, and Punt e Mes, a slightly more bitter variant, in equal parts. He infuses the blend with cocoa nibs.
The stirred cocktail hits all the familiar notes of a classic Negroni, while adding incredible depth. It’s almost as though the cocoa nibs act as a filter, balancing the intense flavors of the vermouth while giving up all the delight of unsweetened cocoa.
The result is a silky-smooth sip that expertly combines intense floral and herbaceous notes, bitter orange, and subtle hints of dark chocolate.
1 ounce Botanist gin
¾ ounce Campari
¾ ounce cocoa-infused vermouth
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass and add ice. Stir, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist.
For the cocoa-infused vermouth:
13 ounces Carpano Antica vermouth
13 ounces Punt e Mes vermouth
8 ounces high-quality cocoa nibs
Combine the vermouths in an iSi whipping siphon or similar. Add the cocoa nibs. Charge the siphon with nitrous oxide and shake vigorously. Vent upright, and strain.
The Negroni also can be made via slow infusion: Combine all ingredients in a glass container. Seal, and allow to infuse in a cool, dark place for two weeks.
A Great Virginia Rum?
Virginians have produced spirits for centuries. George Washington operated a high-production distillery at Mount Vernon. Whiskey, gin and brandies of all sorts were commonplace.
But the commonwealth has never had a reputation for great rum. That may change soon with Jackson & James Rum, made in Richmond solely to be great in a daiquiri.
Most Virginia rums are light-flavored, molasses-based creations. Jackson & James is produced from raw demerara sugar in a style called rhum agricole. Medium-bodied, it is especially rich in a unique flavor called hogo, referring to its bright grassiness and rich funk. A slightly higher proof (94, as opposed to the traditional 80) means it can stand up brilliantly to bold cocktail ingredients. COST: $36.19 TRY IT: A fresh daiquiri
Add it to your bar: The Leopold Jigger
Consistency is key for a great cocktail. So is style.
After a long absence because of a redesign, Cocktail Kingdom is now offering its new and improved Leopold jigger – a two-ended device that covers a full range of measurements, from ¼ ounce to 2 ounces.
Inspired, like most CK pieces, by items in the owner’s antiques collection, it presents an eye-catching profile based on a 1930s design. It has a reinforced middle, which adds an extremely pleasant weight and a feeling of high quality.
The Leopold jigger is available in a range of metal finishes, from stainless steel to gold. CocktailKingdom.com.
Josh Seaburg has established several award-winning bar programs and a series of innovative pop-ups, highlighting elaborate cocktails and food from local chefs. He mixes drinks nightly at Elixia in Norfolk.