Bluestem’s bar manager puts a fresh, floral twist on the classic Negroni cocktail

Bluestem bar manager Jake Ortner loves Negronis. The ruby-hued cocktail is known for its bold bitterness, due to its equal parts of gin, sweet vermouth and most importantly, Campari.

While bitterness seems to be an enduring trend in today’s cocktails, Ortner noticed that many guests were ordering Negronis but not enjoying them.

“I see a lot of people order Negronis because they’ve heard of them or they see someone else order them,” Ortner says. “And they take a sip, and I can see the look on their face. They choke it down and won’t say anything.  I try to take note and ask them, ‘Do you like that? Because I don’t feel like you do. May I make you something you’ll like instead?’”

Ortner’s Negroni Bianco is the non-Negroni drinker’s Negroni. Instead of leading with the bitter notes, Ortner’s Negroni switches out Campari for a blend of the lighter Luxardo Bitter Bianco and Cocchi Americano and the sweet vermouth for dry vermouth.

Bluestem Negroni Bianco

To replace the lost citrus notes, he adds a bit of rhubarb and cardamom simple syrup. What results is cocktail that leads with fresh floral notes and ends with a whisper of bitterness in the finish. It’s a perfect late summer cocktail — soft, slightly sweet and so refreshing.  

Negroni  Bianco

1 oz. J. Rieger & Co. Midwestern Dry Gin

.75 oz. dry vermouth

.5 oz. Luxardo bitter bianco

.5 oz. Cocchi Americano

.25 oz. rhubarb and cardamom-infused simple syrup

3 dashes of magnolia bitters or other floral or orange bitters

1 swatch of orange peel

Combine all ingredients except orange peel in a tall container filled with ice. Stir until cold, roughly 30 rotations. Strain into an old fashioned glass over a large ice cube.  Twist the orange peel over the surface of the cocktail to release the oils in the peel. If you use orange bitters, you may forgo the orange peel or use it and enjoy a double punch of citrus flavor.