- On April 14, 2017
The Negroni is a classic cocktail that is delicious in its original recipe form (a 1:1:1 ratio of gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari), yet also sublime when used as the basis for subtle or significant improvisations. While creating recipes for the cocktail menu, we knew we wanted a Negroni with personality, something completely recognizable as the original, yet with a gentle modification to call our own. That immediately led us to Duluth’s Vikre Distillery, and one of the most compelling personalities in Minnesota food and drink, Emily Vikre.
Emily and her husband Joel Vikre started their distillery in her hometown of Duluth, steps from Lake Superior, embracing the pristine waters of the iconic lake for their spirits. The couple launched the distillery in 2012 with an offering of 5 products; Vodka, Aquavit (a nod to Emily’s Norwegian heritage, where she still maintains citizenship), and three different expressions of gin. Emily told me, “I knew I wanted to make a fairly traditional gin with some rhubarb in it, and I also I wanted to make a spruce tip infused gin because I had gotten really into cooking with spruce tips for a new Nordic project I had done in Boston.” But it’s the third gin she created specifically for the Negroni that we use at Bottle Rocket for our version of the bittersweet Italian cocktail.
“I came across a mention of a cedar-infused Negroni from a bar in Portland, and I thought that sounded amazing!” Emily said, with her genuine and infectious enthusiasm. After she connected the very logical dots from Negroni to gin, gin to juniper, juniper to tree, and tree to cedar, she decided to add a third cedar-infused gin to Vikre’s intial lineup of spirits. Emily explained, “I wanted it to be my own personal perfect Negroni gin, which for me meant making it a bit softer and earthier to play off the wine notes of the vermouth, and the bitter citrus of the Campari.”
The gin actually begins with a sumac tea (sumac + water), which is added to the alcohol in the still pot. “After distillation, the gin is infused with charred, toasted cedar wood – the sort you would use for cedar plank grilling,” Emily explained. The Negroni at Bottle Rocket uses this brilliant expression of gin with a little bit of hibiscus to create a beautiful and delicious take on the classic recipe (cedar plank salmon not included).
2 ounces Vikre Cedar Gin
1 ounce Hibiscus-infused Dolin Sweet Vermouth*
.75 ounce Campari
3 dashes Easy & Oskey Cherry Vanilla Bitters
Stir all ingredients with ice, and strain into a lowball with one large ice cube. Garnish with an orange twist.
*Steep ½ cup of Tea Source hibiscus with 750ml vermouth for 30 minutes. Fine strain.