We sat down with Mia Mastroianni to chat about summer drinks, amaro, Negronis, and her cocktail for June’s Negroni Box, the Danger Juice!
S&S: Your Danger Juice and the approach of summer has us dreaming of beach days. What are some of your favorite summer cocktails?
MM: In the summer I tend to lean toward light and refreshing drinks, and if I’m day drinking, I try to stick with something low ABV (alcohol by volume) so that I can enjoy a few cocktails in the sun but not necessarily feel the aftereffects. I love a classic Aperol Spritz, a chilled glass of rose, or anything with freshly-squeezed juices. Cucumber and basil is a flavor combination I will always gravitate to for the summer!
S&S: So refreshing! And speaking of great flavor combinations—to you, what’s the perfect locale or situation for enjoying a Negroni?
MM: ANY TIME. ANY PLACE. I’m not kidding. For me it’s one of those cocktails that I just can’t resist. It’s perfect for any occasion and works in all seasons. I can sip a Negroni outside on a patio during the day, enjoy with some light bites during aperitivo hour, pair with any number of dinners, and it makes the perfect after-dinner drink! It’s even perfect to sip by a fireplace on a cold night during the winter. It’s proof that balance and simplicity work, and that cocktails don’t need to be overcomplicated.
S&S: What’s one way (besides your Danger Juice riff!) you like to change up the traditional gin-Campari-vermouth Negroni formula?
MM: I love to play around with different brands of gin and sweet vermouths, as well as other spirits like whiskey or mezcal. It’s amazing how the botanicals in one gin can change the flavor profile of the drink entirely. Same goes for brands of sweet vermouth that can offer different levels of depth and complexity. Recently I’ve also been playing around with different infusions at home . . . soaking any number of ingredients in any of the three components can offer up a totally different sensory experience of this classic.
S&S: Some of our subscribers may be relatively new to dabbling in the amaro category—is there anything you’d like to tell them about Campari or amari in general?
MM: Don’t be afraid of the bitterness. It’s an acquired taste that truly grows on you. I will admit that the very first time I tried a Negroni, I was rather put off by that first sip. But as I let it sit and dilute, the cocktail truly blossomed and opened up and by the time I was finished with my first one, I immediately wanted another. Now it’s become something I crave. The amaro category as a whole is taking off in the US, which is very exciting, and we’ve gained access to some really fantastic products. If you don’t love a Negroni at first, maybe start with an Americano (1 oz Campari, 1 oz sweet vermouth, topped with soda water). It can ease you into the flavors. And pair with foods like cheese and charcuterie plates or with olives. Trust me!
S&S: Is there a technique or ingredient you’re currently fascinated with?
MM: I love to walk into a bar and see a bartender who has the ability and confidence to classically roll/throw a Negroni. Rolling a cocktail is a relatively simple technique that can be visually impressive, but also offers added benefits to the cocktail itself. Simply put, it’s essentially pouring the contents from one mixing glass into another, and then continuously doing so back and forth. This gently combines the ingredients with minimal dilution of the ice while also aerating the cocktail. An experienced bartender can pour as long as their arms will reach, which is always impressive.
S&S: What music do you hope people are listening to as they mix and enjoy the Danger Juice at home?
MM: Music is so subjective; however, I specifically designed the Danger Juice with thoughts of spring and summer in mind, so I would pair it with something fun, light, and upbeat . . . maybe a little yacht rock or even some light jazz!
S&S: Any must-visit Negroni Week spots on your list?
MM: For me, Negroni Week is like a holiday, and I will be visiting as many venues as I can possibly fit into my schedule the week of June 24th–30th 2019. So many bars in Los Angeles take Negroni Week as an opportunity to really explore different themes, and you get to see and experience so much creativity and talent on menus, and taste so many variations on this favorite classic. Not to mention it’s opportunity to give back to a diverse group of charities. Each venue that chooses to participate makes an immediate donation to the charity of their choice—and to date, Negroni Week has raised about $2 million for charitable causes since its inception in 2013. If that’s not a reason to go out and celebrate Negroni Week, I don’t know what is!
S&S: We’ll be celebrating along with you!