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La Merced

Like many bartenders, I thoroughly enjoy riffing on the Negroni–the simple beauty of spirit, vermouth and bitter is tough to beat and there are so many possible combinations (plus it’s dead easy). The other night, I decided to try my hand at another variation, and stumbled onto the trifecta of Encanto Pisco, Carpano Antica vermouth and Amaro Montenegro. Originally dubbed the “Carbon Footprint”, I have renamed this libation “La Merced” after a Peruvian village founded by a group of Italian immigrants in the late 1800s.

Background

The Base Spirit
If you’re not a pisco fan, I totally understand. A lot of the pisco out there is just plain terrible. Not so with Campo de Encanto Pisco. This clear Peruvian brandy is made in small batches from the finest grapes (mostly quebranta) and distilled to proof. It’s a labor of love from cocktail wizard Duggan McDonnell of Cantina, chef/sommelier/spirits guru Walter Moore, and Peruvian master distiller Carlos Romero. I was fortunate enough to spend some time with Walter Moore recently, and the passion these guys put into their product definitely translates into the glass. It’s well worth seeking out–you can find it in finer spirits shops throughout San Francisco and beyond, including online at K&L. The most amazing thing about this pisco is that is is such a great mixer, yet it manages to stand out among other prominent flavors in the glass. Just outstanding stuff.

The Bitter
I recently spent some time in Italy, and deepened my appreciation for amari. Such a fantastic way to end a meal! Among the bitters I brought home was Amaro Montenegro. I hadn’t noticed this one before for some reason, but I have since learned it’s widely available here in the states. It’s imported by Vias Imports in NYC, and available online at DrinkUpNY among other places. In the SF Bay Area, you can find it at Ledger’s and K&L. The Montenegro is great on its own (I like it with an ice cube) displaying orange, cherry and chocolate notes along with a balanced herbal bitterness that pleases even inexperienced amari drinkers.

The Vermouth
Sweet vermouth is a real no-brainer in this drink, but I thought I’d go top shelf (of the refrigerator) and use the good stuff: Carpano Antica. At around $30 per liter, it’s definitely more expensive than my Cinzano, but its superior blend of ingredients makes it a real standout in cocktails (it’s also great by itself). You can find it at any fine spirits shop or online at K&L and elsewhere.

Let’s mix one up!

Ingredients

1.5 oz Campo de Encanto Pisco

1.5 oz Amaro Montenegro liqueur

1.5 oz Carpano Antica vermouth

Widely cut orange twist

Method

  1. Pour all three ingredients to a double old fashioned glass and stir.
  2. Add an ice sphere or large ice cube, and stir gently.
  3. Express the oils from your orange twist above the glass and slide it in behind the ice.
  4. Enjoy!

I can’t get enough of this concoction, and am looking forward to batching them up and possibly even carbonating some.

Have a favorite Negroni variant? Tell us all about it in the comments section!

Cheers,
Josh

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