Liquid Intel: Chaos At Pellegrino 2000, Hip-Friendly Grand Cru Champers & A Spiced Negroni Riff
— Updated on 24 August 2022

Liquid Intel: Chaos At Pellegrino 2000, Hip-Friendly Grand Cru Champers & A Spiced Negroni Riff

— Updated on 24 August 2022
Randy Lai
Randy Lai

To close out August, we’re back with yet another round of Liquid Intel: a comprehensive guide to wine, cocktails and drinking out — as recommended by our beverage writer, Randy Lai. From one [too many] rounds at Sydney’s most lauded new Italian eatery to a killer bottle of Grand Cru Brut for under $150, here’s what we recommend pouring straight down your gullet this month. 

Out on the Town: Pellegrino 2000

Pellegrino 2000

Pellegrino 2000’s elevation to the apex of the delicious 100 rankings (NSW) might be the sort of accolade cynical diners take with a punch o’salt, but there’s certainly no denying that this opening (from the critically revered trio behind Bistrot 916) has made mad ruckus all over town. The answer to what a trattoria would look like, if plucked from the hallucinogenic pages of The FADER, it arrives — on the tombstone of the old Bar H spot — fully fleshed: come sundown, the venue’s elongated pass-through counter is a flurry of activity, hinting at the loud delicious mayhem that is constant inside the main dining room and neon wine cellar below. 

As a restaurant, there isn’t much more that can be said of Pellegrino’s punk rock dynamism, and how that butts against the basic structure of traditional Italian cookery with exciting results. To be sure, Chef Dan Pepperell’s savvy yet unobnoxious recipes — ‘limongello’; a brown butter tortelloni wrapped in wonton skin — are the obvious draw, but it’s high time the Instagram lemmings showed some love to the restaurant’s enormously fun beverage program.

Sommelier Andy Tyson has populated the wine list with a grip of thoughtful, deep-cut producers (if you like regionally representative styles of Chianti and Nebbiolo, this is the place). But before sinking your teeth into the proverbial tannins, I can’t recommend a round of aperitivosor seven, as James will attest — strongly enough. Whether you fancy a Campari-and-something or one of the bar team’s meltingly savoury Martinis (served in a fuck-off large, cut crystal goblet), it’s best to experience Pellegrino 2000 with a few classic cocktails in the bloodstream — advice that every trattoria enthusiast can get behind.

RELATED: Liquid Intel: Sydney’s Dean & Nancy, The Henschke Value Proposition & A Gibson For Onion Obsessives

Weapon In Disguise: Diebolt-Vallois Prestige Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru N.V.

A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to be turned onto Diebolt-Vallois during a suppliers’ dinner at the Hong Kong fine diner, Octavium. Getting to sample a range of wines from such a storied producer in Cramant was an occasion unto itself — and a pointed reminder that the best Michelin-starred restaurants traffic not just in sensory gratification, but also in knowledge. 

Look a little closer and it becomes apparent why Diebolt-Vallois is such an open secret among gun sommeliers. An alliance between the titular Diebolt and Vallois clans, the Diebolts were already producing their own Champagne in the northern expanses of the Cȏtes des Blancs beginning in the early 1800s. When the current patriarch Jacques married Nadia Vallois, the Maison acquired additional vines in Cuis, Chouilly and Les Mesnil — furnishing its winemakers with a host of Grand Crux terroirs that walk the tightrope between maturity, soil content and exposure. 

The location of those holdings means that wines made solely out of Chardonnay are of paramount importance, with the aptly named ‘Blanc de Blancs Prestige’ sitting at the top of the range. Journos yammer on about the ‘unfurling’ characteristic of Grand Cru Chardonnay, but I’ve seldom seen that play out in such palpable fashion as I have with this bottling. Initially laden with textbook BdB flavours of lilies, lemon curd and bright green apple, the wine’s profile dramatically changes as it’s exposed to oxygen and a handful of minutes in a glass. That progression, eventually evolving into a dessert bar of cream and shortcrust pastry, is seamless: something that Diebolt-Vallois achieves by blending the balance of this cuveé with stocks from a perpetual reserve (2009-2015). And to think you can get a wine made so exactingly at less than $150 — truly wild. 

Try this at Home: Devender Kumar’s ‘Endgame’ from the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong

In the months since Liquid Intel’s inception, we’ve tackled a number of relatively straightforward drink recipes — intended to lay the groundwork for timeless crowd pleasers you can make, with zero headache, at home. For readers now comfortably au fait with the garden variety Espresso Martini or Boulevardier, this August’s recipe should prove slightly more finicky (in a good way). Trust me when I say that the additional inconvenience is well worth stomaching: the use of centrifugal force — a fairly standard trick in mixology — is about as complicated as the ‘Endgame’ gets; unlocking new layers to the traditional bitterness and piquancy at the heart of the Negroni. 

The recipe’s author, messr Devender Kumar, knows a thing or two about the deceptive balance of aperitivos. A Bacardi Legacy champion (2015) who came of age in Delhi’s flair bartending community, Kumar has probably forgotten more about the Negroni (and the recipe’s myriad permutations) than you and I will ever know. These days — despite a very full dance card as Beverage Manager of Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong — you’ll still find him behind the stick at The Aubrey, the hotel’s spirited Japonisme-themed bar for which the ‘Endgame’ was created: 

“I’ve been a fan of Negronis for as long as I can remember,” explained Kumar. “They were a pivotal part of my experience as bar manager at 8½ Otto e Mezzo (the added benefit being they add a pinch of ‘big aperitivo energy’ to any post-work gathering). I love this style unreservedly, largely because the Negroni’s format is so versatile and lends itself well to endless possibilities.

“The ‘Endgame’ was one of our signature drinks at The Aubrey, from our debut menu penned back in 2021. Built around the theme of chess — specifically, the game’s final phase — it’s essentially a Negroni with the gin component replaced in favour of Ocho Blanco Tequila. We blend the spirit with wasabi paste and leave it to rest in the fridge overnight; and in doing so, ensure that the condiment settles to the bottom of the liquid — so you can filter it without too much particulate matter coming through.” 

Recipe (Wasabi Tequila): Combine all ingredients in a blender until properly mixed, pulsing for approx. 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a container and refrigerate overnight. Remove from the fridge, and strain gently using a cheesecloth. 

  • Ocho Blanco Tequila, 100ml 
  • Wasabi, 3g 

Recipe (Sansho pepper tincture): Infuse the peppercorns into the gin, keeping them at room temperature for two hours. Strain, bottle and date (best kept for 3-7 days). 

  • Sancho peppercorns, 10g
  • Never Never Southern Strength Gin, 100ml

Method: Combine all ingredients in a tumbler and stir. Strain over ice, garnishing with an orange twist and the Sansho pepper tincture. Voila!

  • Wasabi Tequila, 30ml 
  • Campari, 30ml
  • Mancino Rosso, 30ml
  • Sansho pepper tincture, 3 drops 

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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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