Cocktail & Other Recipes By Spirit Bourbon Cocktails

Left Hand

Left Hand cocktail
Image: / Tim Nusog

At first glance, it’s easy to think you’ve seen this drink before. At its essence, it’s a Boulevardier—a Negroni made with bourbon instead of gin—with modified proportions and the addition of chocolate bitters. But those two changes, small as they may seem, add up to an entirely different drink.

The cocktails created by Sasha Petraske and that emerged from his team at Milk & Honey were defined by their simplicity and attention to exacting proportions. This modern classic, created by Sam Ross (of Penicillin and Paper Plane fame) is a prime example. Ross has described the drink as “a love child between a Negroni and a Manhattan,” and the influence of both drinks can be easily seen. The spirit-Campari-sweet vermouth combination of the Negroni is obvious, while the Manhattan’s 2-to-1 ratio of whiskey and sweet vermouth, plus bitters, simply gets an additional splash of Campari.  

More than a few bartenders, contemporary and classic, have found that the addition of one single ingredient, even in small quantities, can send a cocktail spinning in an entirely new direction. Here, that ingredient is chocolate bitters. “Before the Boulevardier came back into prominence, this was a bourbon riff on the Negroni that we created using the newly released chocolate bitters from Bittermen’s,” says Ross in Petraske’s 2016 book Regarding Cocktails. Rounding out the spiced softness of both the bourbon and the sweet vermouth, and tempering the Campari’s sharp bitterness, the bitters also impart a distinct complexity that turns the drink into something that may gently evoke a chocolate-covered cherry in the best and booziest of ways.

It was part of a line of drinks that arose at the bar. “We created a series of ‘Hand’ cocktails in the early days of Milk & Honey,” says Ross in the book. “The Right Hand was an aged-rum take; Tres Hands was is mezcal-and-tequila sister; and the Smoking Hand was her brother from Islay and the Highlands.” This particular cocktail, however, has become perhaps the most well-known of the series.   

Its success is for good reason. “Sasha reserved his compliments for only a few drinks, but this was one of our cocktails in the ‘Hand’ series that he loved,” says Ross. “‘Well played, Sam,’ [Sasha] said.”


  • 1 1/2 ounces bourbon

  • 3/4 ounce Campari

  • 3/4 ounce sweet vermouth (preferably Carpano Antica)

  • 3 dashes chocolate bitters (such as Bittermen’s)

  • Garnish: brandied cherry


  1. Add all ingredients into a mixing glass with ice and stir until well-chilled.

  2. Strain into a chilled coupe glass.

  3. Garnish with a brandied cherry.