A fresh take on a classic cocktail is a lot harder than it looks. When you’re trying to connect the present with the past, a lot can go awry.
Bakuto, a Japanese Izakaya restaurant in Lindenhurst, decided to make this process even more challenging by attempting to also bridge the gap between familiar and foreign. The finished product? The lemongrass Negroni.
“As a Japanese Izakaya, I wanted the cocktail menus to use products that would pair well with the food,” says Patrick Capellini, bar manager at Bakuto. “The dishes have a lot of depth to them with rich umami flavor. Bitter and bright just happens to be the perfect pairing. Also, with every menu, I do try my best to have one element of each drink be Japanese, whether it’s a spirit, a fruit, a syrup, etc. Here, by using Shochu, it checks all the marks.”
His inspiration for the lemongrass Negroni was — not really a surprise — the Negroni, a popular Italian cocktail composed of three readily available ingredients: gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari.
“It’s a classic cocktail that has been my favorite drink for as long as I can remember,” he says. “I wanted to do a riff on the Negroni using Japan’s national spirit, which is Shochu. I thought if I could make a classic using a foreign spirit I could bridge the gap between familiar and foreign.”
Doing a fresh take on a classic, especially one that’s perfectly balanced, is always tricky. To keep things simple, he broke down the Negroni into the following framework: the spirit, the bitter element, and the sweetness component. By doing this, he was able to easily swap in and out what he wanted.
“The final cocktail comes to life with Mizu, a Japanese Shochu distilled spirit made from lemongrass,” Capellini says. “Next, we needed our bitter element. I found Luxardo Bitter Bianco had exactly the flavor I was looking for, but it also packs a punch, so to balance it I added two elements of sweetness. Finally, for the sweetness, this cocktail gets both crème de poire (pear liqueur) and Dolin blanc, which is a clear sweet vermouth.”
When customers ask about what the lemongrass Negroni tastes like, he replies with, “bright and citrusy, with a touch of booze and bitter on the back end.”
“The feedback has been phenomenal,” he says. “I have definitely gained some diehard fans with this one. Our cocktail menu has changed a few times, but this has become a staple and isn’t going anywhere.”
Bakuto is located at 121 N. Wellwood Ave. in Lindenhurst. It can be reached at 631-225-1760 or bakutobar.com.
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