$9.50; Hook & Ladder; 1630 S St., Sacramento
This subtly updated take on a classic is a must-experience for any cocktail connoisseur. A proper Negroni is about nuance and balance, with big bitterness working with plenty of flavor. Beverage director Chris Tucker and his talented team of bartenders refine the traditional ratio of equal parts London Dry-style gin, Campari bitter and sweet vermouth by upping the gin slightly. Tucker says it allows for better balance with the other two ingredients. With Hook’s signature logo burned into an orange peel and served over ice, this version takes Negroni to new heights.
• Old Fashioned
$7; Jamie’s Broadway Grille; 427 Broadway, Sacramento
You don’t use the term “craft cocktails” at Jamie’s, but if you’re looking for old-school done right – whether it’s the cooking or the drinks – you’ve come to the right place. Bartender Matt Lonergan makes a no-nonsense Old Fashioned and that’s exactly what we want, a touch of the 19th century with the 21st. He douses a sugar cube with bitters, muddles the orange rind to get the oil out, stirs the whiskey concoction carefully, and voila! Perfection.
• Spring Fling
$9; Shady Lady Saloon; 1409 R St., Sacramento
Lavender-infused cocktails can be a tricky undertaking. With too strong a touch, or too long an infusion, that lavender can start to taste like hand soap – and that’s not the way to have a drink after a long day. Shady Lady’s Spring Fling finds that right balance of floral, with a tantalizing citrus tang and spritzy bit of soda water. With a final bit of lavender as garnish, this vodka drink is an apt way to stop and smell the flowers, albeit in a boozy sort of way.
• The Real Gin and Tonic
$8 short, $12 regular, $5 at happy hour; Ella Dining Room & Bar; 1131 K St., Sacramento
Could this be Sacramento’s most popular cocktail? Ella Dining Room & Bar sells about 2,000 of its signature gin and tonics each month (billed as “the Real Gin and Tonic”), and every one is created to order. Ella’s bartenders create the quinine tonic used in each drink, which is combined with gin, citrus juices and other mixers. The result is a cocktail that’s refreshing and easy to imbibe, and works well as an aperitif before digging into Ella’s dinner menu.
• White Linen
$8; Capital Dime; 1801 L St., Sacramento
This cucumber cooler ranks as Sacramento’s quintessential summer cocktail. The White Linen was originally created by Rene Dominguez when he was a bartender at Ella, and has since become a fixture of cocktail lists in Sacramento and beyond. Along with a bit of gin, citrus and simple syrup, the key ingredient is a touch of St. Germain elderflower liqueur, which adds a delicate, floral note. Think of the White Linen as a bit of cooling Delta breeze in a glass.
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