The Negroni has become so ubiquitous it’s nearly its own classification of drinks now (though many purists would balk at such a statement). One of the easiest and most popular ways to tweak the Italian classic is by simply substituting the primary spirit: Swap out the gin for whiskey and you have a Boulevardier or use a Jamaican rum like Smith & Cross to make the Kingston Negroni. One curious addition to the Negroni variation roster is made with a spirit that many Americans may not be familiar with: the Bagrationi uses chacha, the signature spirit of the country of Georgia, as its base.
If you’re a drinker visiting the Eastern European country of Georgia, chances are you’ve thrown back a shot of this clear brandy made from pomace, the pulpy remains of wine grapes after they’ve been pressed for their juices. An infamously strong spirit, chacha is ubiquitous in Georgia, a fundamental piece of the country's hospitality, celebrations and culinary traditions. And while it’s not so big in the United States (most bartenders would like have only a passing familiarity, if any), bartenders in Georgia are now deploying it in a wide range of cocktails. One of the bars at the forefront of the movement, a bar that is helping to elevate the cocktail scene in the capital city of Tbilisi, is 41 Gradus.
41 Gradus uses the spirit in many of its cocktails, including riffs on classics. Bar owner Roman Milostivy employs it in place of the usual gin in the Bagrationi, named for Pyotr Bagration, a Russian general and native Georgian who fought against Napoleon in 1812 and was mortally wounded for his efforts. The other parts, Campari and Italian sweet vermouth, he keeps as is. The result is something like a Vodka Negroni, only brighter and richer. However, chacha is rarely available in the United States and even other countries like the United Kingdom. In some areas you might be able to order it online—in other places, your best option is to start planning a trip to Georgia.
- 1 ounce chacha
- 1 ounce Italian sweet vermouth
- 1 ounce Campari
Add the chacha, Italian sweet vermouth and Campari into a mixing glass with ice and stir.
Strain into a rocks glass over one large ice cube.