Happy New Year! Again! Balcony Booze is braving the cold and bleak outdoors for a Chinese New Year special showcasing Willem Barentsz Premium Gin, an exciting new bottle of booze laced with exotic jasmine flowers. Taking its name from a Dutch arctic explorer, Willem Barentsz gin calls itself “The Pioneering Spirit”. The distilling method and botanicals will be familiar to gin lovers, but the split base of rye and wheat grains, and the emphasis on jasmine makes this a more unusual and intriguing entry in to the category.
Since it’s the Year of the Rooster, I had to partner it with the classic aperitif wine Cocchi Americano – a futuristic rooster has been on the label since the 1930s, “representing his aperitif function (“it awakes the appetite”) as well as one of the symbols of the town of Asti”. In contrast to the Willem Barentsz gin (est. 2014), Cocchi Americano has been made to the same recipe since 1891.
Once those two bottles were locked in, it became clear that we were heading in the direction of a White Negroni, so I quickly acquired some Suze, a Swiss bitters heavy on the gentian that traditionally replaces Campari in the popular negroni twist. If you are feeling fancy, you might want to track down Charteuse’s Gentiane Liqueur instead. Londoner Wayne Collins created the White Negroni back in 2001 with Plymouth Gin for a drinks expo in France, before it found its way on to the menu at Pegu Club in New York and became a big hit.
If you do a quick search online, you’ll find several different specs for making a White Negroni. The original recipe calls for equal parts, but you may find that you want to dial down the Suze a touch, and splash a little more gin in there. That’s what I settled on after a few attempts, as I wanted the jasmine in the Willem Barentsz to come through.
Once you’ve settled on your amounts, simply combine all the ingredients in an ice-filled old fashioned glass and stir. Wayne Collins preferred a grapefruit twist garnish, but lemon will do. Don’t forget to put the Cocchi in the fridge once you’ve opened it – it only keeps its quality for a month or two. Be prepared for a big hit of jasmine!
40 ml of Willem Barentsz Gin
25 ml of Cocchi Americano Bianco
20 ml of Suze
Combine all the ingredients in an ice-filled old fashioned glass and stir
Garnish with grapefruit / lemon twist
If you want to reduce the gentian or bitter side of things, you could try either a sweeter twist with Galliano in place of the Suze (30ml Willem Barentsz Gin, 30ml Cocchi Americano, 15ml Galliano), or perhaps something drier with Fino Sherry (Equal parts Willem Barentsz Gin, Cocchi Americano, Fino Sherry plus two dashes of Peychaud’s Bitters). You can’t go too far wrong with quality booze. Enjoy!