One of my favourite versions of the Negroni is the unimaginatively named Mezcal Negroni which simply replaces gin with a good quality mezcal. But what if we double down on the substitutions in a quest for something that is more tangential to the beloved Negroni? For such an endevour I turn to a favourite of mine, Amer Picon, which is a distant cousin to Campari with some flavours that mesh very well with mezcal. Indeed it transpires these equal quantities of mezcal, picon and sweet vermouth get on pretty well together but need a little help to fully bond. This is where a dash or two of bitters can help cement a relationship and normally I would expect orange or Angostura bitters to do the trick. In this case we have a drink that already has orange notes and plenty of bitterness so we turn to one of the sweeter bitters that we keep around for Pisco Sours (and a few other things). Yep, Peruvian Amargo Chuncho is the slightly unlikely glue that holds this motley crew together.
Now at this point we have only the sweet vermouth remaining from the original Negroni formula so we’ll definitely be needing a new name. Most mezcal is produced in the Mexcian state of Oaxaca (wah-hack-ah) and the original people of that region were the Zapotec, one of whom would be a Zapoteca. Boom.
1.25oz/37ml mezcal (a decent joven*).
1.25oz/37ml Amer Picon (black label is best).
1.25oz/37ml Italian vermouth (Punt e Mes being my go-to).
3 dashes of Amargo Chuncho bitters.
Stir with ice and strain into a DOF glass containing a block or sphere of clear ice. Garnish with a peel of dried slice of blood orange. Mrs Proof told me to stick a couple of pineapple leaves in too and she is never wrong.
Toast the Zapotecs (c.700BC – 1521AD) – the first(ish) great Mesoamerican civilization.
If – and it’s a pretty likely “if” unless you live in France or its immediate neighbours – Amer Picon is unavailable to you then substitute an equal amount of Ramazzotti and add an extra three dashes of orange bitters. This is in addition to the Amargo Chuncho. If you don’t have any Amargo Chuncho go and buy a bottle it’s not that expensive and you’ll need it for a proper Pisco Sour anyway.
*I used Atenco but other suggestions are Del Maguey VIDA, Los Siete Misterios Doba-Yej, Nuestra Soledad or other entry level quality joven mezcals. Nothing that contains any colour or dead animal.