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This is the cocktail of the summer

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 08/08/2018 Samuel fishwick

© Provided by Evening Standard Limited If it ain’t broke, fix it anyway. Take the Negroni, a drink that has risen from occasional tipple to summer dominance in the past four years. It’s untouchable, the cocktail circuit’s stalwart, erupting from obscurity to swallow the market (by being swallowed by punters in turn). Variations on the theme come and go: from cherry to peach Negronis at Forza Win, to experiments with mezcal, but London remains red.

As a result, then, every bright-eyed bartender’s dream is to invent “the Negroni killer”: a drink that will tackle the Campari titan and give punters something fresh to stream into their highballs. 

Enter the Americano Spagliato, an Italian classic being given a new lease of life at Beso in Seven Dials, a Moorish-Mediterranean restaurant run by chef Khalid Dahbi. An Americano is a (slightly) weaker Negroni, and is strictly an old recipe. “Spagliato means mistake, or ‘broken’, and the beauty of the drink is that it comes from a deliberate error,” says Bruna Battaglia, bar manager at Beso. “It’s said to be the result of a busy bartender mistakenly using sparkling wine instead of gin in a Negroni, which turned out to be a beautiful accident.

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Sometimes getting it wrong can lead to something happy. The key of the mistake here is the pedrino sherry tonic, with a full nose of citrus botanicals, which replaces the gin.” It’s a glorious screw-up, in other words, and it’s toppling the Negroni’s dominance this summer. 

Start with Campari and sweet vermouth. If you’re building your own, prosecco is fine, so don’t feel the need to spend extra for champagne. At Beso, a healthy glug of Pedro Ximénez, a fortified wine, is also splashed. Sherry is evidently having a moment, fitting in with a monastic leaning towards low ABV (low alcohol) content suitable for drinking in the drowsy heat. 

“The ingredients combine to a cherry note, so we garnish them with maraschino cherries,” says Battaglia. “It’s possible to have it all summer because it’s very fresh yet not very strong, so it’s something you can sip in the heat.”

a glass of wine © Provided by Evening Standard Limited Because it’s a cocktail founded in error there are a number of playful twists you can put to your palate. In the same way that a traditional Negroni can be either built over ice or served up in a stem glass, the Spagliato can also be served on the rocks or in a champagne flute. Play around with garnish too.

Dukes Bar, in Mayfair’s Dukes Hotel, or Soho House and its offshoots, are Americano aficionados, and you can also buy it bottled and pre-mixed online from Cocchi.com. Berner’s Tavern serves the Chimney Sweep, which is given potency with a healthy slug of Cocchi Americano.

According to Italian folklore the Negroni is in fact predated by the Americano. Created for Count Camillo Negroni in 1919 at Florence’s Café Casoni, the Americano is said to have begun as the Milano-Torino, a mix of bitter Campari and sweet vermouth. A year later Negroni asked for something stronger, so the soda water was replaced with gin. A star was born.

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