Liquid Intel: A Batched Coffee Negroni That Packs Plenty Of Punch, Massolino Nebbiolo & More
— Updated on 14 June 2023

Liquid Intel: A Batched Coffee Negroni That Packs Plenty Of Punch, Massolino Nebbiolo & More

— Updated on 14 June 2023
Randy Lai
Randy Lai

As October comes to a close – and we all gird our livers for the absolute mayhem that promises to dominate the 2022 holiday season – Randy, our resident beverage writer, returns with this month’s dispatches from Liquid Intel: BH’s field guide to cocktails, wine & spirits, and the most delightful watering holes in Australia.

From family-made Barolo, worth every penny of its $100 price tag; to a subterranean drinking den that hits like a lupara, here’s everything of a liqueur-based nature we recommend taking the opportunity to sample this month…

Out on the Town: Apollonia

Liquid Intel
Image credit: Jiwon Kim

There’s a special rung on the ladder of excellence for ‘themed’ bars which manage the tricky task of delivering on their dramatis personae. No small feat then that Apollonia, a subterranean cocktail bar in the bowels of Hinchcliff House, is able to articulate on the promise of its Godfather concept with such confidence and aplomb. 

Born from the mind of Jason Williams (of Proof & Company fame) the bar takes its inspiration from fictional heroine Apollonia Vitelli – better known to students of celluloid as the wife of ruthless crime boss, Don Michael Corleone. 

Envisioned by Williams as a fantasy iteration “of an underground Sicilian bandits’ drinking den”, one can’t help but give the team at Apollonia a lot of credit. Despite its theatrical inclinations, the venue never ever descends into a mummer’s farce; with mafioso-approved themes of love, revenge, and loyalty instead providing the blueprint for some truly delicious cocktails.

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With a menu that’s loosely corralled into differing levels of intensity, beverages like the ‘Hills of Savoca’ ($24) are a great option for commencing your evening. In practice a crowd pleasing milk punch, this recipe marries together fat-washed gin, citruses of a Sicilian bent and a refreshing garnish of mint and lavender. 

Bright, zesty and extremely moreish, these early adventures are the antithesis to the menu’s subsequent chapters – bombastically entitled ‘Revenge’ and ‘Tradition’. Here, the drinking experience takes a suitably dark turn, with serves like ‘A Pear Served Cold’ ($24) offering an elevated take – often highlighting traditional amara – on the familiar stirred-and-boozy formula.

The ‘Serralunga Seven’: Massolino Barolo 2017

Liquid Intel

Playing within the same sandbox, yet with a much more rarefied construction, as the Vietti Perbacco (we recommended that bottle earlier this May) Massolino’s signature Barolo is a gift to lovers of classically made Italian Neb that delivers the goods on every proverbial front. 

In production since 1911, this non-site-specific blend – akin to Champagne’s most stylish N.V. cuvées – is crafted with fruit hailing from 7 of Massolino’s different vineyards. Crucially, these are all situated in and around the legendary Serralunga sub-region: “the only village more Barolo than Barolo itself” (as wine writers are so fond of saying). Vineyards benefit from both eastern and westerly exposures; and it’s well-known that Serralunga’s terroir is positively jam-packed with limestone – giving Barolo made here unrivalled power and a driving red fruit characteristic. 

Fundamentally, it’s impressive how year in, year out Massolino manages to craft a Nebbiolo as delicious, approachable and well-priced as this one. No matter the precise vintage in question, drinkers can expect perceptible (but finely rounded) tannins, framing an extremely pure core of cherries and dry mint. Delicious straight out of the bottle, the 2017 vintage nonetheless benefits from gentle decanting, allowing the wine’s subsidiary character – the result of incorporating a little declassified fruit from Massolino’s legendary ‘Parussi’ cru – to show through.

Try this at Home: Michael Nicolian’s Coffee Negroni, Continental Delicatessen

While the standard-issue Negroni has become a trope of bars, restaurants, and backyard barbeques across the nation, discerning drinkers are beginning to realise just how many variations on the basic Campari/gin/vermouth theme there are, waiting to be discovered. Aside from the widespread phenom that is the ‘Sbagliato’ – made famous by a certain House of The Dragon heartthrob – it’s becoming increasingly popular to craft batched cocktails – combining the bitter, tantalising quality of a Negroni with the silkiness of milk punch.

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In the Australian bar scene, this hybrid Negroni-punch style has quite the assortment of devotees, including Michael Nicolian – the smooth operator behind Continental Deli & Bistro. A dyed-in-the-wool hospo veteran (who has been working in Sydney restaurants for over a decade) Nicolian shares his personal punch-inspired Negroni twist below. Another make-ahead banger – the most finnicky piece of equipment you’ll need is a cheesecloth – this is a serve that’s got it all:

“The ‘Coffee Negroni’ is a bit of a cult classic, from an era 10-15 year ago when bars would pass their Negroni mixture (cold-drip style) through a siphon. We’ve taken that a step further: combining together Campari and coffee in the style of a milk punch, in order to give our recipe added clarity and viscousness. The resulting mouthfeel is a luxurious one, and works especially well for short, spirit-forward cocktails.

“Personally, I find the current obsession with white Negronis – in restaurants and high-end cocktail bars – a little ridiculous, and not at all as delicious as the classic Campari/sweet vermouth formulation. This recipe is a nice way to simulate some of the white Negroni’s clarity without losing the great mix of flavours you get by combining Campari, gin, and sweet vermouth.”

Method: Combine Campari, sweet vermouth and mixture of citrus with milk. Leave to sit for 15 minutes, then strain using a cheese cloth. While waiting for milk to separate, infuse a handful of coffee beans into gin (also for 15 minutes).

Taking care to first remove the beans, combine infused gin and pre-strained punch mixture together, pouring over ice. Garnish with spent coffee beans and serve. (Editor’s Note: This recipe yields a total batch volume of 2.2 litres.)

  • Whole milk, 1.0L
  • Campari, 500ml
  • Sweet vermouth, 500ml
  • Mixture of lemon/orange juice, 30ml
  • Coffee-infused gin, 700ml

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Randy Lai
Following 6 years in the trenches covering consumer luxury across East Asia, Randy joins Boss Hunting as the team's Commercial Editor. His work has been featured in A Collected Man, M.J. Bale, Soho Home, and the BurdaLuxury portfolio of lifestyle media titles. An ardent watch enthusiast, boozehound and sometimes-menswear dork, drop Randy a line at [email protected].


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