Trattoria Contadina gets schooled in edgy Negronis on

San Franscisco Chronicle

By Esther Mobley

You may ask: Who isn’t specializing in Negronis these days? The bitter and sweet aperitif, traditionally an equal-parts combination of Campari, vermouth and gin, is having a moment among the craft-cocktail set. Exhibit A: Negroni Week, a 3-year-old celebration launched by Imbibe magazine, which this year featured the likes of Negroni ice cream from Humphry Slocombe and Negroni gelee with foie gras panna cotta from Dirty Habit.

But Contadina is not the bandwagon-jumping type, and Kevin Correnti, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Gina, has been Negroni-obsessed for years. “I was a poor college student, and I didn’t want other people drinking my drinks, so I started putting Campari in everything,” he recalls. “No one else would touch it.”

Although there’s only one Negroni on the menu (Campari, Cocchi vermouth, Beefeater; $10), Correnti has a seemingly endless roster of variants up his sleeve. Which makes him one of the best-kept cocktail secrets in San Francisco.

Utter the word “Negroni” and Correnti is likely to appear at your table, offering impassioned suggestions for versions of his favorite cocktail. He might first fix one with Cappelletti Americano (a Campari substitute), Carpano Antica and Beefeater, bursting with orange blossom, its bitterness resounding on the finish. Next, the Lady Hawk, which tops that Cappelletti concoction with Prosecco: Surprisingly, the sparkling wine didn’t add any discernible fizziness, but rounded the overall texture and added a distinct stone fruit flavor.

“My perfect Negroni right now,” Correnti says, “would be Antica, Big Gin from Seattle, and a mix of Cappelletti and Cynar,” the latter an artichoke-derived amaro. Strong in both alcohol and flavor, it’s not for everybody. But if you’re an amaro fan — or if you’re open to conversion — you may love it. And you may also love Correnti’s version that includes St. George’s Botanivore gin, Antica and the rhubarb liqueur Zucca, which has delicate floral aromas and tastes wonderfully earthy. (“Flowers just starting to decompose” was the tasting note of one of my companions.)

If you give Correnti carte blanche, you’ll experience various fruit bitters, an extensive cast of vermouths and rinses of cherry heering. The stealth hit of a recent visit was a Boulevardier — which swaps gin for whiskey — garnished with olives. Might sound gross, but it isn’t. The drink’s Rittenhouse Rye gives it a familiar whiskey-cocktail profile of sweet caramel and leather that gently cloaks the bitter and fruity elements. “It’s one of those perfect five-sense cocktails,” Correnti says. “A Boulevardier is already sweet, but here you get the salt from the olives, the bitter, the spice.”

Flavor harmony, experimentation, secret menus — if Correnti isn’t careful, someone might mistake him for a mixologist. But that’s not what he and Contadina are about. The priority, Gina says, is maintaining the same dishes and service and staff that have won the restaurant loyalty for 30 years. The rest is extra.

Esther Mobley is The San Francisco Chronicle’s wine, beer and spirits writer. E-mail:

Heering Negroni

Cherry Heering 2015 Sling Award Lands in Sweden on

Via several worldwide semifinals, and with a last stop at the global finals held in Singapore in November, Cherry Heering’s 2015 Sling Award has finally landed in Sweden, firmly in the hands of winning bartender and native son Christoffer Johansson.

Johansson’s Chris Cross Bitter Sling took top honors at the 2015 Sling Awards, besting four runner-ups from around the world. Bartenders from China, Ireland, Australia and France competed against Johansson at the legendary Raffles Hotel in Singapore, where the world-famous Sling was first created.

“Cherry Heering is the backbone of any sling,” said Johansson following his victory.

“No Singapore Sling is complete without Cherry Heering,” agreed Brendan Shorrock. “There might be variations but it’s never complete without Cherry Heering.”

While not a finalist in the competition, Shorrock was one of four bartenders in attendance whose establishments —in Shorrock’s case, Peppercrab at the Grand Hyatt in Dubai — raised the most money towards Panthera as part of the Sling Award’s “Here’s to the Tiger” campaign. Panthera is worldwide leader in wildcat conservation.

In addition to overall winner Johansson, the four finalists — all profiled below — included Hungie Fong of China, Richard Grimsey of Ireland, Mathias Aso of Australia, and Jeremy LaFrance of France.

“We’ve sipped quite a few Slings in our days, but this year’s contestants have really raised the bar for what the legendary Singapore Sling can be,” said Adéle Robberstad, CEO, Peter F. Heering. “The new Sling menus and the skill, craftsmanship and creativity that was poured into each Sling blew us away. Watch out – these 12 will be dictating tomorrow’s cocktail culture.”

Finalists and Panthera bartenders gathered at the amazing Raffles Hotel in Singapore for the competition. It was 1887 when the doors to the Raffles Hotel Singapore first opened. Since then, this luxury five star hotel has become an icon that epitomizes the romance of the Far East – an intoxicating blend of luxury, history and colonial design. Its classic architecture has been perfectly preserved and provides a stark but lively contrast against its modern-skyscraper neighbors. Among the most well-loved aspects is the Long Bar, where the famous Singapore Sling was created.

“Peter F Heering has dedicated an entire generation to make such an amazing product,” said Amanda Wan, a Panthera bar guest and bartender is residence at The Envoy in Hong Kong. “It can be found on the shelves of all the reputable bars.”

Here’s a look at the finalists from Cherry Heering’s 2015 Sling Award:


Also particpating in the 2015 Sling Award competition were representatives of four bars who raised the most money for Panthera:


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