click to enlarge Photo by Jessica Bryce Young

Photo by Jessica Bryce Young

Caraway-flavored aquavit plays well in yet another Negroni remix  

Yes, yes; this column has remixed the Negroni before (and the Boulevardier, and the Old Pal). But the Negroni is so perfect in itself, and yet so perfectly and endlessly remixable, that it was inevitable I'd come back to it. In fact, I make no promises that I won't do it again.

That said, this month's Remix was a happy accident. I started with a bottle of Norwegian Linie aquavit, a fiery grain-distilled neutral spirit that's aged in oak sherry barrels, but there are very few classic cocktails that use aquavit as a base spirit. It's usually drunk straight – tossed off while making heavy eye contact in a Scandinavian tradition known as "skoaling." (In Time Life's 1968 book The Cooking of Scandinavia, there's a somewhat creepy photo triptych of Swedish actor Max Von Sydow demonstrating proper skål form.)

Aquavit is flavored with botanicals, like gin; and like gin, each distiller uses a proprietary flavor blend. In general, though, savory caraway is the uppermost flavor/aroma.

Most Americans experience caraway in just one place: rye bread. My first thought: Who wants to drink a cocktail that tastes like a sandwich?

After a few hare-brained ideas, like infusing rye whiskey with ham or Swiss cheese or trying to find Dijon-mustard bitters, I hit upon the idea of using aquavit in a gin-traditional cocktail. But with that savory taste, it couldn't be anything sweet. Negroni to the rescue: Aquavit plays well with Campari's bitterness and with some red vermouths – choose one that's more on the herbal/bitter side, not sweet or fruity. I used Carpano Antica, though Punt e Mes would also work well here (avoid Dolin, Martini or Noilly Prat). Skoal!

classic:

1 ounce Campari

1 ounce sweet (red) vermouth

1 ounce gin

orange slice or twist

Stir spirits in a mixing glass filled with ice. Strain into a chilled glass and garnish with orange.

remixed:

1 generous ounce Campari

1 generous ounce Carpano Antica vermouth

1 scant ounce Linie aquavit

dill sprig

Stir spirits in a mixing glass filled with cracked ice and let rest in the ice (you want some dilution). Strain into a chilled glass. Drape dill sprig across, not in, the glass, for an aromatic garnish.

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