After Hours: Trattoria Milano Offers a Negroni in Milanese Style
After more than two years of having quiet cocktail hours in our home kitchens, we’re rediscovering the joy of sipping a perfectly-prepared drink in a convivial restaurant setting. At Trattoria Milano, Eataly’s stylish restaurant specializing in Milanese cuisine, that long-awaited, must-order cocktail is a Negroni.
Taking a cue from the regional food menu, beverage manager Ashleigh Forster sources most of Trattoria Milano’s spirits from northern Italian regions like Lombardy and Piedmont. She found, however, that many diners were hesitant to order some of the more unfamiliar spirits stocked behind the bar.
“We have such incredible producers – a lot of niche boutique producers coming from northern Italy – I wanted to make sure we were highlighting them properly,” says Forster. Her solution was to make these unusual spirits more approachable by incorporating them into a classic cocktail. “The Negroni has always been a popular cocktail but in the last few years, it’s really had a resurgence,” she says.
Trattoria Milano’s Negroni menu features around a dozen riffs on the traditional combo of gin, vermouth rosso, and Campari. Each cocktail follows the basic Negroni formula – a spirit, a bitter agent, and a sweetening agent – but one drink might swap the gin for bourbon, while another will trade vermouth rosso for Punt e Mes, which is a darker style of vermouth. “I wanted to create an homage to the Negroni while also highlighting all these special products we have in our back bar,” says Forster.
The Big Smoke, a blend of Lagavulin scotch, Campari, and Cinzano is the restaurant’s signature Negroni. The name is a nod to Lagavulin’s smoky flavour, as well as a reference to Toronto’s well-known moniker.
“I think the sweetness of the vermouth and the bittering agent of the Campari allows people to experience a peaty scotch in a less scary way,” says Forster of the cocktail. “This drink gives you an idea of what that spirit is about while making it slightly more accessible.” The Cinzano softens the intensity of the scotch, giving the drink a smoky and well-balanced taste.
A drink with flavour this big needs an equally bold accompaniment. Forster suggests ordering the Big Smoke alongside the mondeghili – fried Milanese-style meatballs. “It [mondeghili] has a lot in terms of flavour and structure, so it can stand up to the cocktail,” says Forster. “I think those two together play really well against each other.”
Forster intends to revamp Milano’s Negroni menu in a few months with a line-up of lighter, summery interpretations that are perfect for imbibing on a warm day. “I really want to keep this program going,” she says. “I want it to be that if you’re going to Milano, you know you have 12 different Negroni options at your fingertips.”