Hello? Is this thing still on…? A busy schedule of work, rest, and play has left Oh Gosh! a little neglected over the past couple of months. I can only apologise for the lack of updates, but hope to remedy the situation this month. Want to learn about the old, now defunct Bacardi Elixir, or find out about some of the latest cocktail bitters around, or see some of the best bars in San Francisco, Portland, Seattle and Paris? Then keep your eyes peeled. Today though, let’s take a look at a bitter of a potable variety that came to me thanks to a very kind bartender.
Brian Mac Gregor tends bar at the Jardiniere restaurant in San Francisco. The restaurant came highly recommended by my good friends Dinah and Joe, and while I was visiting San Francisco a few months back we enjoyed a delicious meal there which was made all the better by some incredible cocktails and wonderful hospitality from Brian. I clearly wasn’t the only person who enjoyed Brian’s cocktails and I was pleased to see him selected as a finalist in the G’Vine Gin Connoisseur Program.
At the closing party in Paris Brian served a rather tasty Negroni variation which is where I was introduced to Gran Classico. A traditional Italian bitters (though now made in Switzerland), Gran Classico is based on the original 1864 “Bitter of Turin” recipe from which Campari is also derived. It is created using 25 different herbs and roots, including bitter orange peel, rhubarb, wormwood and gentian, and bottled without colouring at 28% abv.
In contrast to bright red Campari Gran Classico is a muted clear amber. The nose is dominated by rhubarb, with a distinct herbal note and a hint of sweetness. In the mouth Gran Classico is surprisingly viscous, coating the tongue in a sweet rhubarb flavour which is gradually complemented by a wonderful balance of gentian and orange peel. The wormwood gradually reveals itself in the long finish and the overall result is a delicious herbal mix that displays far more complexity than the more famous Campari.
While I would happily sip Gran Classico on the rocks, it also makes a great cocktail ingredient replacing Campari in most traditional recipes very well. Perhaps my favourite so far though is the aforementioned Negroni variation – Brian Mac Gregor’s Negroni d’Or…
- 1 ½ shots / 45 ml / 1 ½ oz G’Vine Nouasion
- ½ shot / 15 ml / ½ oz Gran Classico
- ½ shot / 15 ml / ½ oz Dolin Blanc
- Stir with ice and strain in to a cocktail glass.
The Negroni d’Or represents a more restrained version of the Negroni, with an inviting golden hue quite unlike the original. The gin and Gran Classico ensure the traditional bitter, gin led flavours continue to dominate, but the added herbal complexity of the Gran Classico and the floral bouquet of the Dolin Blanc give it a less dominant, far gentler profile. Crisp and elegant, the Negroni d’Or is a perfect introduction to the Negroni for someone who might be put off by the more dominant original, but also makes for a great variation for the Negroni lover who fancies a change.
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