It is one of my dreams in life to be able to walk into any bar across the world, order an Antīc Ferari and get a knowing nod from the bartender as they clink ice cubes into a mixing glass. I’ll watch them reach for and pour equal measures of Antica Carpano, Fernet Branca and Campari. They will stir that perfect concoction until it reaches arctic chill and then strain it over fresh ice, deftly or clumsily waving a grapefruit or orange peel in or near the glass–I don’t really care. Within a minute, I’ll order another to replace the one that’s just disappeared down my throat…
There is a warm fuzzy place in the cocktail world for 3-ingredient, equal-proportion drinks. Their very nature makes them easy to make at home and confident for us to order at the bar. The Negroni is arguably best in class: 1 ounces each of Gin, Campari and Sweet Vermouth chilled and served up or on the rocks. It is delicious, complex, infinitely customizable (see: Mezcal Negroni, White Negroni, plus an infinity more) and the ingredients are fairly ubiquitous.
The Antīc Ferari is a criminally simple alteration of that timeless classic.
You need only glance at the backbar to visually check off the ingredients:
Antica Carpano? Check. I hope–this is the current industry standard for quality sweet vermouth. Don’t panic if your local pub doesn’t pour this, any decent sweet vermouth will do–just don’t stoop too low or allow them to pour anything from a dusty bottle.
Fernet Branca? Check. Flavor profile best described as a mixture of Jagermeister, Listerine and Sharpies. It’s fabulous stuff…I refer to it as ‘Bartender’s Mouthwash’.
Campari? Check. Italian bittersweet digestif with a scarlet hue once made possible by the inclusion of crushed beetle wings. (I know!)
All you need to do is order a Negroni, ask them to substitute Fernet Branca for the gin and you’re off to the races. Don’t worry if they give you a look…“Trust me,” you’ll say and then suggest they try it. Just be sure to watch their face while they do so…“It’s called an Antique Ferrari. You’re welcome….”
All of these fantastically complex ingredients come together to be so much greater than the sum of their already great parts. Initially sweet with warm vanilla bean from the Antica and a cold herbal snap from the Fernet that then melds into a delightfully numbing citrus peel dance on the palate from the Campari. It’s a rush, I tell you. And fair warning…just a little bit addictive.
Cheers! I hope you have as much fun turning people onto this drink as I have.
1 oz Antica Carpano Sweet Vermouth
1 oz Fernet Branca
1 oz Campari
stir all ingredients with cracked ice until very cold
strain up or over fresh cracked ice
express the oils of a grapefruit or orange peel and drop into the glass
We sat down with Richard to pick his brain about cocktails, music & the Best of the Best of LA!~
If there were just ONE place you could take an out-of-towner visiting LA, where would you take them?
Dinner at Musso & Frank–a throwback to actual Old Hollywood. Now it’s surrounded by these wacky gross bars and, basically, stripper stores. But that place is still there and you can go in and look at the wall and see this is where Fitzgerald had martinis and Sinatra had steaks. Throw away all your dietary restrictions and go for it. I don’t care what you do or do not eat. You’re gonna eat a steak and potato and have four martinis at Musso’s.
Best places to grab a cocktail in LA?
There’s three tiers. If you want a really challenging but great cocktail, go to Birch. The bar manager there will take some abstract concept and turn it into a drink. Her cocktail menu is astonishing. If you want a drink made perfectly to spec and get some obscure whiskey cocktail from the Boston book and know they’re not going to have to look it up, go to Varnish. You can say, “I want a Remember the Maine” and they’ll make a perfect Remember the Maine. If you want some rotgut booze, go around the corner to Smog Cutter. It’s one of the oldest bars in LA and, thankfully, one of the most untouched by anything else. There’s a pool table, there’s always karaoke, but don’t order a cocktail there. Beer and highballs are all you can hope for.
What should everyone have stocked in their liquor cabinet at home at all times?
I’m the firm believer in being prepared for all occasions when it comes to drink. So I think you should always have a bottle of bubbly (it doesn’t have to be expensive), a white and a red, some beer. And then as far as liquor goes, have something clear and something brown. Clear can be vodka, gin, or silver rum or tequila. Brown, you can get some whiskey, rum or cognac. Then you’re ready for all occasions.
What’s the one drink everyone should master & be able to serve up to guests?
The Old Fashioned formula is all you need to know because it’s super versatile. It doesn’t have to be whiskey. You can do mezcal, you can do a gin Old Fashioned…it can be anything you want. Just add spirit, a touch of any kind of sugar you want to use and bitters. Then you can express your tastes with it because that’s just a very simple formula that you can mix and match. Slot some spirit in, throw different bitters in there, throw a different garnish in there and you can basically create your own version of an Old Fashioned. As long as you know the basic specs, you’re off to the races. And you can experiment with it and not spend all day since it’s only three ingredients–it’s easy. A mezcal Old Fashioned is fantastic.
What are your favorite places to check out live music in LA?
The resindencies at The Echo and The Satellite are always great. There’s no cover at the door, the crowd’s always fun, there’s no attitude and you never know what you’re gonna find. And then there’s The Baked Potato where you can always find some random stuff. Like Volto might be playing some night. Sometimes dipping your toes in the Sunset Strip is kind of hilarious for us East Siders to head over there and see what’s going on at The Viper Room.
What’s your real-life superpower?
I can taste things without putting them in my mouth. Through the many years of developing cocktail menus, I can see things and know how they’re going to taste just by reading the ingredients.
Richard is a first generation American, musician, gear head and cat dad. LA serves as his home base while he travels the country designing cocktail programs for events and venues as National Beverage Director for thegrandbevy.com. Follow his travels at @formulaswan.
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© 2017 Sirens and Scoundrels // Cocktail Recipe © 2017 Richard Swan