This cocktail was relatively quick and easy—a rare find in The Aviary Cocktail Book. It’s a carbonated Negroni and a white lady, made separately, then combined. Pretty delicious. Pretty easy to make, as long as you have carbonation equipment and experience.

Since there’s not much to say about the preparation process in this case, I’ll focus most of this entry on the carbonation process that I use. But first, let’s talk about the ingredients.

Carbonated Negroni

The Negroni is one of my all-time favorite cocktails. I vividly remember the first Negroni I tasted – it was at an Italian restaurant in Dublin, of all places, and I fell in love with the drink immediately. There’s really nothing quite like it, and it is so simple to prepare that it’s hard to screw up (but certainly not impossible!). The basic cocktail is one ounce of gin, one ounce of Campari, and one ounce of sweet vermouth, stirred with ice, then strained and served over a large cube, garnished with an orange peel. One of the keys to making a great Negroni lies in the vermouth. Vermouth goes bad at a rapid rate. Once a bottle has been opened, and air has been let in, the clock is ticking. It’s a matter of weeks before the character has changed completely, and the vermouth is no good. Just imagine how long some open bottles of vermouth must have been sitting on bar shelves. It gives me the shivers to think about it! Couple that with the ubiquity of cheap vermouth, and you’ve got an explanation for why people who have tried a Negroni say they didn’t like it.  I use an inert gas wine preserver called Private Reserve to extend the life of my vermouth, and I store it in the fridge. Additionally, I buy the vermouth in 375 ml bottles so that I finish the bottle sooner and then move on to a fresh bottle.

This recipe calls for Campari, Citadelle Gin (one of my favorite gins) and Carpano Antica Formula Sweet Vermouth (definitely my favorite vermouth). Regans Orange Bitters, Fee Brothers Orange Bitters, and plain old water round out the ingredients list. The water is used because in this case the cocktail is not stirred with ice, so there is no dilution. The whole batch gets carbonated (detailed instructions follow) and then bottled in 187 ml champagne bottles. I put the caps on using the Red Baron Capper.

On to cocktail number two.

White Lady

Citadelle Gin, lemon juice, egg white, simple syrup. Dry shake to create the froth, then shake with ice. Double strain – meaning, though a hawthorn strainer to hold retain the ice, then through a fine mesh strainer to keep out any unwanted chunks from the egg white – into a tall glass. Simple and easy.

To Serve

Serve the White Lady in the tall glass alongside the carbonated Negroni in the bottle. Taste each separately then gently pour the Negroni into the White Lady. If you do it right, you’ll create a layered effect, which looks quite nice.

This cocktail is really stunning to look at, and it tastes nice and refreshing. I think it would be a really nice party drink because you can mix, carbonate and bottle the Negronis ahead of time, and then whip up the White Ladies on the spot, very quickly, and have a dramatic demonstration, with nice flair, and a cool layered effect.

On Carbonation

As promised, here is my expanded discussion about carbonation:

In The Aviary Cocktail Book the authors frequently refer to the Perlini Cocktail Carbonating System. I don’t own one of those. To me, it seems a little pricy, and, since I already have a carbonating rig, I haven’t felt the need to shell out hundreds more dollars on another, possibly less effective system. I’d like to tell you about my set up and process, which I learned from Dave Arnold’s excellent book, Liquid Intelligence.

The core of the setup is a CO2 tank. I got mine a few years ago from a place that sells kegs of beer. We were installing a kegerator in our office, and this was a necessary component. I don’t remember how much we paid, but it wasn’t much. We got two, so we’d always have a backup. They last so long in the kegerator, that we really haven’t needed a backup, so I’ve been using the backup at home. You can get it refilled for around $10. Similar tanks are available on amazon for less than $60.

With the CO2 tank in hand, you’ll now need a regulator. I use this one from Taprite, which cost me about $50. You’ll also need a 5/16” gas line with a quick disconnect. I use this one, which cost me about $13. Last piece of equipment is a carbonation cap. I chose to go with a stainless steel version versus a plastic option, and it cost me about $10.

To set it all up you connect the regulator to the tank, then you connect the gas line to the regulator. The quick disconnect on the end of the gas line interfaces with the carbonation cap, which is a one-way valve that screws on to the top of soda bottles. You can use a 2 liter, a 1 liter or a 20 ounce bottle. I’ve found that many water bottles have a different cap size and so the carbonation cap won’t screw onto them. Soda bottles work. I have a couple bottles of each size on hand – I’ll explain why in a moment.

So, in order to carbonate properly your liquid needs to be very cold. I usually put whatever I’m about to carbonate into one of the soda bottles, then into the freezer until it begins to freeze. And it should be free of particulate (like juice pulp or spices) because these form nucleation sites that encourage the CO2 to come out of solution (turn into bubbles), which ultimately reduces the carbonation effect. Nobody likes a flat soda! If what you intend to carbonate contains a fruit juice, you should at the very least strain the juice (a fine mesh strainer is OK, a coffee filter is even better), and ideally you should clarify the juice (a topic for a different post). Or, as is often the case with lemon or lime juice, if the amount of juice is small, you may choose to add the juice at serving time to the already carbonated beverage (in other words, don’t carbonate the lemon or lime juice). If you’re working with spirits, liqueurs, and syrups, none of this is an issue. Get it really cold and let the gas flow!

It’s important to choose an appropriately sized bottle. Ideally, the liquid you intend to carbonate should fill the bottle up between 65% to 85% of its capacity. Before carbonating (and usually while chilling) you’ll want to squeeze all of the air out of the bottle, and then put the cap on. If there’s too much unused space in your bottle it can be very difficult to squeeze the air out—especially when you’re working with only one hand, as you will be if you’re working alone (because the other hand will need to screw on the cap). If you there’s too little space left in the bottle, you will lose product when you open the cap after carbonating. Trust me. You need to leave some space for the fizz the rush into.

Great. Your liquid is now in the soda bottle, and it’s very cold. Now squeeze out as much air as possible and then screw on the carbonation cap. Make sure the ball valve is turned to the off position, turn on your CO2 tank and adjust the regulator so the output pressure is about 42 PSI. Connect the gas line to the carbonation cap. Open the ball valve. Be prepared—CO2 is going to rush in, and the bottle will rapidly expand to its normal shape and size. It seems a little violent the first time you experience it. The kids usually duck and run! Immediately start vigorously shaking the bottle, while it’s still attached to the gas. You’ll hear the gas flow continue and then gradually slow down as the gas gets incorporated into the liquid solution. As the pressure in bottle reaches a point of equilibrium with the pressure in the line, the flow will stop, and you can shut off the ball valve and disconnect the gas line from the bottle.

Let it rest for a minute or two, then very gradually vent the bottle and release the pressure. It will be like opening a soda bottle that you shook up, because, well, that’s what it is. Once you’ve released the pressure, repeat the entire process two more times. It may seem like a lot, but with a little practice you can execute this in just a few minutes and carry on a conversation at the same time.

This process feels a bit like alchemy the first few times, and it makes a great party trick. The rig looks pretty bad ass, and the results are instantaneous and amazing. Behold! Booze into soda! It’s a miracle!