Hands on the clock, as measured by those in the mixology world, move quickly. By now the barrel-aged negroni is the stuff of legend, and for me, the stuff of habit. At Citizen Public House in Old Town Scottsdale, I haven't not ordered a barrel-aged negroni in years. Not, at least, between three and six every day, when the barrel spouts flow quicker, and do so for five dollars a pop.
But old habits die hard, and aged habits must become fluid. So I was pleased to see that after some considerable time, Citizen Public House Beverage Director Brandon Casey was making some moves on a barrel-aged menu that had seen very little change (a julep, I think, was added a couple season ago). Such is the nature of aged things, I suppose -- they tend to stick around for a while.
New creations -- not one, but three -- were announced over Instagram about a week ago, so I headed on in to chat with Casey and, hopefully, to change my ways.
Meet the Fernet-chu Picchu, pictured above. It's blended with Lillet Rouge; Pêche De Vigne; and Pisco Portón, the Peruvian brandy that's, by law, never-aged.
That is, it's never aged until it's in the barrel-aging hands of Casey, where Peruvian law turns to faux pas and gets named after the the country's most sacred ruins. It does anything but ruin the end result: a delicious new barrel-aged cocktail, and Casey's personal favorite.
It's mine too, but the exploration shouldn't stop there. The Hayden's Mill cocktail makes excellent use of AZ Distilling Company's Copper City Moonshine, the sharp edges of which do well to be reigned in by American oak barrels. They contribute hints of vanilla and caramelized sugars from their charred interiors, to which Casey adds blood orange and luxardo liqueurs and coffee-caramel bitters to bring things home.
In a couple weeks you'll also want to try the restaurant's newest release, a gin-starring concoction that Casey blends with ruby port, Amantillado sherry, and a banana liqueur from Giffard. It sounds strange, but I assure you, I've never tasted anything bad or of artificiality from Giffard. This devious creation, Casey says, pays homage to childhood's favorite sandwich, the PB&J, with the grape-based roots of the ruby port, the toffee notes of the american oak and, of course, the banana Giffard.
A lot has changed since Portland's Jeffrey Morganthaler, of Clyde Common fame, first poured hundred of dollars of his restaurant's money into barrels and wondered if, months later, he'd be watching that money go down the drain. Instead, he had one of 2010's most esteemed libations: the barrel-aged negroni.
And a lot has change since then, too. The barrel-aged Negroni at Citizen, the mother batch of which is nearly two-year-aged now, is running out.
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So, make room for a new season of last season's cocktails.