Cocktail bartenders have a deep-rooted respect for tradition. Back when the only cocktails we had a taste for were Long Island iced teas and vodka tonics, bartenders needed to look back at what was done over 100 years prior before they could look forward. One of the first to show us the recipes, techniques and ingredients that are now fixtures in today’s great cocktail bars was Sasha Petraske, who opened Milk & Honey in 1999 on NYC’s Lower East Side and who passed away last week at the too-young age of 42. A long line of family bars have pioneered the cocktail scene since then, the latest being Stop Time in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.

On the menu, a number of notable classic drinks are uniquely expressed in low-ABV form, such as the Negroni Sbagliato, which uses prosecco in place of the gin found in the iconic original. Head bartender Matthew Clark swapped the standard Campari bitter in this drink for Cappelletti, a wine-based aperitif, and the addition of Cocchi Vermouth di Torino  provides a rich, yet not overpowering contrast. Topping it off with a dry prosecco, an orange wheel and, of course, a metal straw, this Negroni still retains its distinctly bitter feel, though with a lighter touch.

The beauty of a three-ingredient drink like the Negoni Sbagliato comes from its simplicity and the craft that goes into finding properly balanced flavors. Though there’s also an intangible quality to what makes the Milk & Honey family’s cocktails unique, no matter if it’s a daiquiri or a bartender’s latest experiment, Sasha probably put it best when he said, “Cocktails are not worth intellectualizing; they are just something to be experienced. A cocktail is a simple thing — what matters is if you make it right.” Thank you, Sasha, and we will raise a glass your honor.

Negroni

Servings: 1 cocktail

Ingredients
1 ounce Beefeater Gin
1 ounce Campari
1 ounce Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth

Directions:

  1. Combine ingredients into a chilled rocks glass.
  2. Add a large ice cube and stir for 10-15 seconds.
  3. Add an orange twist garnish.

Negroni Sbagliato

Servings: 1 cocktail

Ingredients
1 1/2 ounces Cocchi Vermouth di Torino
1 1/2 ounces Cappelletti Aperitivo Americano Rosso
Topped with Montelvini Prosecco

Directions:

  1. Combine ingredients into a chilled collins glass.
  2. Add a large ice and top with prosecco.
  3. Add an orange twist garnish.

Difficulty: Easy
Prep Time: 2 minutes