Barrel - aged at The Bamboo Bar
THE Mandarin Oriental’s exquisite Bamboo Bar makes a fitting headquarters for a cocktail revolution. Frequented nightly by ambassadors, celebs, VIPs, and well-heeled connoisseurs who take their spirits seriously, it’s one of the city’s finest watering holes – one where you can expect to enjoy bespoke cocktails, served in luxury glassware no less, from the comfort of leather armchairs while simultaneously soaking up live jazz.
With award-winning mixologists such as Sarawut Pinpech (one of Campari Academy’s best bartenders) in charge of libations, it’s also a hub of innovation, so alongside classic cocktails you can expect to find creative concoctions inspired by Thai ingredients, and, just launched last month – the aforementioned cocktail revolution – barrel-aged, ‘remixed’ Negroni.
Why cocktail revolution? Well, Bamboo Bar is among the first venues in Bangkok to offer Negroni aged within special mini oak barrels imported by leading beverages distributor Independent Wine & Spirit Thailand. The company officially launched Aged Negroni last month with a glitzy party at Bamboo Bar, and the oak barrels it imports have already now been rolled out to hip bars all across the city. So wherever you find a knowledgeable, passionate bartender, you’re likely to find an Aged Negroni. As Khun Sarawut will attest, this is a boon for drinkers.
“The oak barrels add so much depth of flavour to Negroni,” he says. “The classic Negroni, of course, is renowned for its pronounced flavours. The ageing process really helps to make it a much smoother drink, toning down the bittersweet kick of Campari without losing any of the freshness. You get notes of chocolate and vanilla, for instance, and the alcohol is much mellower. Visitors to the bar love it.”
The classic recipe for Negroni, of course, is one part gin, one part vermouth rosso, and one part Campari, garnished with orange peel. Khun Sarawut ‘remixes’ this recipe, adding slightly more gin and Campari to the mix before aging the cocktail in a barrel that’s been primed with port (the port is kept in the barrel for two months before being drained; the cocktail is then aged in the barrel for between four to six weeks before it’s ready to be served).
“Think of it as the difference between a good Negroni and a great Negroni,” says Khun Sarawut. “And really it didn’t require that much effort – just high quality ingredients, mini oak barrels, and, of course, a little bit of patience.”
With its characteristic blend of sweet, floral and bitter flavours, the Negroni has long been known as the discerning drinker’s cocktail of choice – a serious drink for serious drinkers who have distinguished palates. With its barrel-aged Negroni, Bamboo Bar now offers one of the finest representations of the drink in Bangkok. And, really, it doesn’t get any better than that. Cheers!
For more info about Bamboo Bar visit mandarinoriental.com/bangkok; Independent Wine & Spirit Thailand at www.iwsthailand.com
Spirit of the age
The history of Negroni – in brief
AN adaptation of the Americano – a simple blend of Campari, vermouth and soda – Negroni is said to have been invented in Florence in 1919 when Count Negroni (a big fan of gin, apparently) asked for a slug of his favourite libation in his Americano in place of the soda.
The results – complex, not-too-sweet, strong and refreshing – bowled him over, and thus the Negroni was born.
Perfect as both an apéritif and digestif, the cocktail was soon adopted by Italian drinkers who adored its palate preparing and cleansing properties; ditto its crisp, fresh flavour – the perfect tipple for a warm afternoon.
From Italy the cocktail then slowly travelled around the world, finding favour over the years with discerning drinkers in hip bars everywhere from New York to London to Bangkok and beyond. In 2010, on the back of the global craft cocktail explosion, it then finally hit the mainstream.
Today, any cocktail bar worth its salt will have Negroni on its menu. And, if they’re really good, they’ll offer a barrel-aged variety too.
Barrel-ageing not only smoothens out the Negroni cocktail, but also softens the mouth feel.
In basic terms, mixologists put Negroni in a barrel and wait – usually for between four to six weeks. The alcohol extracts colour and flavours from the wood over time, and the cocktail also oxidizes (which sometimes lends delicious nutty flavours to the final blend). Mixologists will sample Negroni from the barrel every couple of weeks, removing it and bottling it when it tastes just right.
To serve, barrel-aged Negroni follows the same template as established by its founder: on the rocks in a cocktail glass garnished with an orange peel. Perfetto!