It’s no secret that if you’re looking for a good Negroni cocktail in Portland, the first place on your list should be Nostrana. Sure, you can get a well-made Negroni at several places around town, but at Nostrana they’ve sort of built a minor cult around that particular cocktail.
The talented team behind the Rooster Bar at Nostrana, under the guidance of bar guru Douglas Derrick, has a special variation of a different Negroni creation each month, and the restaurant features a Negroni Social each year to celebrate the cocktail and determine the most popular of the year.
A Negroni cocktail is actually a drink derived from the earlier Americano, devised in Prohibition-era Italy to satisfy thirsty Americans, a refreshing combination of bitter Campari Liqueur, sweet vermouth with a touch of soda, on the rocks and a twist of lemon. Some bartenders like to add a dash of aromatic bitters to the mix.
When Count Camillo Negroni, desiring a drink with a bit more authority, asked for his with an added shot of gin, the Negroni became an instant hit. Ever since the basic formula for the Negroni has been faithfully rendered in the same formula. But creative bartenders also can’t resist tweaking.
In October the Negroni of the Month at Nostrana’s was a golden and delicious delight dubbed the Riscallo Negroni, a combination of Ransom Old Tom Gin from Oregon and a companion product, Ransom Dry Vermouth, with the bitters being supplied by Gran Classico from an original recipe dating back to 1860 in the city of Turin in northern Italy.
Shimmering gorgeously on the bar, the Riscallo was supple and balanced, profuse with botanical aromas and flavors. With the combination of three botanically-driven spirits, the Old Tom Gin, the Dry Vermouth (which lists its multitude of botanicals clearly on the front label) and Gran Classico, it perfumed the air around us as we sipped slowly and with great appreciation. The crunchy crostini, savory meatballs and garlicky-rich polenta from Nostrana’s kitchen was the ideal accompaniment as well, savory food with a savory cocktail!
Even though the Riscallo is not Negroni of the Month any longer at Nostrana, don’t hesitate to ask for one: they’ll be proud to make it for you.
You may be distracted though. The current Negroni of the Month is the mouthwatering Two If By Sea, a blend of Cardamaro, a wine-based bitters built around cardoons and Blessed Thistle, relatives of the artichoke, and dating from the Middle Ages when it was used as a medicinal potion; Plymouth Navy Strength Gin (and yes, it’s quite strong and quite full-bodied); and the rare Vergano “Luli” Moscato Chinato, a bittered, fortified and aged muscat wine you have to taste to believe.
If you just can’t decide, have both. And accompany them with a slow, leisurely and delightful Italian meal and finish it off with a doppio espresso, thereby treating yourself and drinking responsibly at the same time.