You'll no longer have to buy a plane ticket to get in on the cocktails at Seattle's Essex: Owners Brandon Pettit and Molly Wizenberg (a.k.a. Orangette) will be sharing their favorite recipes with us, every other week. Drink up, people.
Today: If you can get down with a Negroni -- or even a Martini -- you'll love its 3-ingredient cousin.
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If you like a Negroni as much as we do -- or even if you don’t like a Negroni, but have room in your heart for gin -- you’re going to like the White Negroni. It pushes similar buttons, but with a lighter touch. In fact, if you’d rather, forget that it involves the word Negroni at all. Think of it as a more complex twist on a Martini.
Like the Negroni, it contains just three ingredients, one being gin, and it plays on strong, sweet, and bitter flavors -- though as its name implies, the White Negroni is lighter in color and in flavor.
Besides gin, a White Negroni always contains a gentian aperitif liqueur, usually Salers or Suze. Gentian is a bitter root that shows up in many amari and fortified wines: It’s one of the ingredients in Campari and Aperol, and it’s the primary flavor in Salers and Suze. Don’t feel out-of-the-loop if you’re not familiar these gentian liqueurs; until fairly recently, they weren’t available in the States. Now that they are, though, they’re worth playing with. Suze is more bitter and intense than Salers, but both are delicious and very refreshing with soda and a lemon twist.
The third component of the White Negroni is up for debate: Some bartenders like to use white vermouth, some use dry vermouth, some like Lillet Blanc, and some like Cocchi Americano. At Essex, we tend toward this last, a fortified wine that’s a lot like a vermouth, but stronger, sweeter, and more bitter. It also has more body than vermouth, which gives a nice texture to the White Negroni. (And when we don’t feel like making ourselves a White Negroni, we drink Cocchi Americano straight, on ice. If you’re a Lillet Blanc fan -- who isn’t? -- try it instead, also with an orange twist. It's a fantastic thing to drink while you’re cooking dinner.)
In any case, the White Negroni looks a lot like a Martini, and when you take a sip, it also starts a little like a one, too: The gin comes on first. But by your second sip, you notice that it’s more delicate on the palate, with a soft herbal flavor and a subtly bitter finish. It’s particularly good with citrusy foods, and with anything salty. If you’re looking for a way to class up a bowl of potato chips, put a White Negroni next to it, and you’re set.
Brandon and Molly met because of a mutual interest in food - or, more specifically, when Brandon read Molly's food blog Orangette and sent her an e-mail that included some very effective compliments. The better part of a decade later, they co-own and run the restaurant Delancey and its sibling Essex, in Seattle. Brandon is the chef of both, and when he's not manning the wood-burning oven, he likes to make things from scratch that more sane people would probably buy, like mustard, vinegars, pretzels, and obscurely flavored liqueurs. Molly is the manager / Organizer of All Things at Delancey and Essex, and she is also the author of the New York Times bestseller A Homemade Life and the forthcoming memoir Delancey. They have a young daughter named June, who is excitedly crawling toward the refrigerator as Molly types this sentence, and two dogs named Jack and Alice.