Gin isn’t for everyone, and neither is a bracing, bitter cocktail like the Negroni. However, for those looking to try a new drink that resembles a Negroni, with a spirit similar to gin, but is its own unique concoction, then the Wormhole Warrior is a good starting place.
The base of this cocktail is Cocalero Clásico Herbal Spirit, a rare spirit that shares some similarities with gin, notably a strong botanical presence that includes juniper. This bottling, though, is milder, has lower alcohol and isn’t nearly as juniper-forward, incorporating instead botanicals from South America.
Cocalero is named after the coca leaf growers of Peru and Bolivia, whose indigenous people have used the leaf for medicinal and religious purposes for thousands of years. Like Green Chartreuse, cocalero is made with a closely guarded secret recipe; this one includes 17 botanicals, a number of which would not be out of place in an energy drink, like green tea, ginger, guarana and ginseng. Given its namesake, it might come as no surprise that the spirit also includes coca leaves. In this product, the coca flavors are extracted using a steam-distillation method developed by the perfume industry, and the spirit contains no narcotic elements.
If viewing the Wormhole Warrior as a Negroni variation, then Tempus Fugit Gran Classico Bitter takes the role of Campari. Like Campari, Gran Classico is a bittersweet Italian aperitif, though its color and flavor profile are different—this amber hued liqueur has notes of rhubarb, orange peel, gentian and wormwood. Because of its soft colors and bittersweet flavor, it’s often used in place of Campari for golden or blanc Negronis. Rather than the traditional ratio of 1-1-1, though, this recipe calls for only 3/4 ounce of the bold and gold liqueur.
The relative sweetness of both the Cocalero and the Gran Classico means that rather than using a sweet vermouth (which the classic Negroni calls for), a dry vermouth is used. Not only does it keep the drink from being overly sweet, but also gives it a clearer, brighter color. The choice of which dry vermouth you employ is up to your personal taste preferences and price point concerns, but Dolin Dry Vermouth is a reliable, affordable choice. The vermouth also goes nicely in a proper Dry Martini, for when you’re done making Wormhole Warriors.
Add the Cocalero Clásico, dry vermouth, Gran Classico and orange bitters to a mixing glass with ice and stir until well-chilled.
Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice.
Garnish with a lemon peel and mint sprig.