Cocktail bar The Secret Mermaid, hidden within the depths of Ocean Financial Centre in the middle of Singapore’s Central Business District, is one of the nightlife venues that will be participating in this year’s Negroni Week, celebrating that wonderful classic cocktail that comprising equal parts gin, Campari and vermouth and garnished with an orange peel.

We speak to The Secret Mermaid head bartender Kelly D’Cruz what she thinks of the classic Negroni and how hers will make all the difference during Negroni Week running from 6 to 12 June 2016.

So, Kelly, tell us about what’s so different about the Negroni you’re making for Negroni Week at The Secret Mermaid?

A classic Negroni is one of my favourite cocktails and as a bartender I’ve noticed that while it’s always a crowd favourite, there are loads of people who like the flavour but find it too strong. (So) I’ve taken the classic Negroni and added a twist on it to make it into a Sour.

(During the Week) we will have the classic Negroni as well as a Negroni Sour. Both are selling for $20++, and $2 per cocktail will go to Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Negroni Week was launched in 2013 in the United States as a celebration of one of the cocktail world’s greatest efforts to raise money for charitable causes around the globe. From 2013 to 2014, Negroni Week grew from 100 participating venues to more than 1,300 participating venues around the world and raised more than $120,000 for charities.

Tell us about your Negroni Sour. What inspired you, and what went into it?

My inspiration with the Negroni Sour was to make it more approachable and a bit more easy drinking without compromising on the flavour of a classic Negroni.

I’m influenced by a lot of things, in particular, requests from customers. While the Negronis is always a top sellers, customers are getting more interested in having bespoke cocktails or a classic with a twist.

The Negroni Sour started because a customer requested for a refreshing Negroni. As someone who enjoys Negronis as they are, I was not immediately convinced that it would be a good idea but the flavours married well and provided an interesting take on a timeless classic.

The Negroni sour contains Half Moon Orchard Gin from Tuthilltown Spirits, the makers of Hudson Whiskey, based out of upstate New York, Atsby Armadillo Cake American Vermouth, a New York City-made vermouth, Campari, hopped grapefruit bitters, lemon, and egg white.

I’ve used Half Moon Orchard Gin as my base spirit because it’s a very flavourful and slightly fruity gin which works well with Atsby Armadillo Cake which is an American Vermouth which is not as sweet as a regular sweet vermouth and slightly more spice-forward. The mixture of this gin and vermouth provide a very interesting and complex base. I then use Campari, lemon juice, grapefruit bitters and egg white to create a bittersweet frothy Negroni Sour.

The final product is a mixture of sweet, sour, and bitter, with a hint of spice. And it’s on the lighter side, you can really keep going all night. Come to think of it, it’s slightly dangerous in that way!

So it’s essentially a marriage between a Negroni and a Sour. Tell us more about the gin and vermouth you used in it.

The Half Moon Orchard Gin is one of my favourite gins. It’s distilled as a near neutral base spirit from a combination of wheat and apples, so the base spirit itself is a bit on the fruitier side. They then infuse it with around 8 different botanicals including juniper berries, almond, cardamom, coriander, elderberry, lemon peel, orange peel, pickled bergamot. It’s a beautiful gin, slightly sweet and fruity but also a hint of spice. I love making sours with Half Moon because once you add citrus to it, the flavours expand a bit more and add a wonderful complexity to the drink. It was my first choice when making my Negroni.

I love how experimental craft spirits tend to be and Atsby Armadillo Cake American Vermouth is a great example of American craft. It’s not as sweet or as bitter as you’d expect. They were not trying to replicate a sweet vermouth, instead they were trying to make something new and fresh. It’s more spice-forward and herbaceous. They’ve added some really interesting ingredients to it such as Japanese shiitake and wild celery. It tastes unlike any other vermouth I’ve had. It pairs really well with the gin from Half Moon because it complements the fruitiness of the gin by adding a nice hit of bitter spice.

As you mentioned earlier customers are starting to ask for twists to classics. Do you think that’s a good thing for the bar scene, and how do you think Negronis will evolve in the near future?

It’s been amazing to see how people’s tastes have evolved with the scene in the last few years when cocktails bars started popping up like crazy. It’s wonderful that people are getting more interested in spirit-forward cocktails, and are starting to pay more attention to the spirits that go into their favourite cocktails.

I think the fact that bartenders tend to love Negronis and love working with it and experimenting with it is a big reason why it’s always gonna maintain its popularity. It’s so beautiful in its simplicity.

(But I also) think that Negronis are gonna continue evolving as more interesting spirits and ingredients come into play. Alternate base spirits, housemade gins, and unique vermouths are where Negronis are going to continue growing.

Presented by Campari, Singapore Negroni Week will take place from 6 to 12 June 2016 and will see participation by over 30 bars across the island.

the secret mermaid kelly dcruz



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