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Put another way, how to "MacGyver ways to get around the occasional absence of Suze"
Ed’s Note: TBH – I feel I was way ahead of the never ending Negroni curve, when we first published this story almost a decade ago. I had just come back from San Francisco at the the then hopping Trick Dog and had fallen in love with the then-rare White Negroni. But upon returning to Vancouver I found that a crucial ingredient—the famed Suze—was not available in province. Quel surprise. Determined, I turned to Katie Ingram—she had just started working at L’Abattoir, filling the large shoes left by Shaun Layton. This was years before she’d open Elisa, wine BOTY, moved to AnnaLena and then Amsterdam, where she is now, but she crafted a work around that showed what a star she would become.
Ironically Suze is now available in BC (you can get it at Legacy) and Cocchi Americano—Katie’s substitute—is somewhat harder to find. So feel free to use Suze or go the full workaround and stand out for your taste and perseverance.
Being a liquor consumer in B.C. is not that different from being a prisoner in Hogan’s Heroes—sure, there are some laughs, but entire trends happen in the outside world that completely pass us by. Plus it’s hard to get stuff. Take the white negroni, a new riff on an old classic cocktail that the rest of the civilized world has been enjoying for some time now. Our bartenders—as plugged in as any on the continent—could only stand with their noses pressed against the glass because of the scarcity of one of the drink’s key ingredients: the Swiss aperitif Suze (storied enough to have been painted by Picasso in 1912).
The mother of their invention took two forms: firstly, bottles of Suze, demonstrably not purchased in B.C., found their way to some back bars. Secondly, some resilient types figured out a way to jury-rig a version with the ingredients that were available here, usually subbing in the also-great Cocchi Americano as a substitute. Then, miracle of miracle, Suze arrived on the market, and then it disappeared. Current status: coming, maybe.
In response to such Heller-esque shenanigans, one can either despair our pathetic plight or embrace our ingenuity. I choose the latter: the rest of the world has only one white negroni and we—thanks to the whims of a few—have two.
Suze Made from the alpine gentian root, this bright, yellow-hued aperitif is both bitter and floral, making it a drink with some serious personality. When (if) it does arrive here, it comes in a 1-litre bottle, which will last even a seasoned drinker a long time.
Cocchi Americano This Italian aperitif is almost as legendary as Suze and shares the same yellow hue (although it’s a bit less electric-looking…and -tasting). Pronounced “coke-y.”
By Katie Ingram, bartender at L’Abattoir
“As we MacGyver ways to get around the occasional absence of Suze on our back bars, we need to find effective ways to balance the ultimate umami that is found in all negronis. The negroni shiro—shiro meaning ‘white’ in Japanese—takes Cocchi Americano and Bittered Sling’s orange and juniper bitters as the bitter and herbaceous component. The sake is used in place of vermouth as a lengthener to add juiciness and a touch of sweetness.”
1 oz Botanist gin
1 oz Cocchi Americano Bianco
1 oz Gekkeikan sake
1 dash Bittered Sling orange and juniper bitters
Combine all ingredients into a mixing glass and stir for 20 rotations. Strain into a rocks glass over ice and garnish with a large grapefruit twist.
Originally published 2016; Updated December 2022