Reviewers are people, too. (This may seem an inflammatory assertion in this world of uninformed online pushback to every expert opinion, but I assure you it’s true.) Despite a professional requirement to remain completely open to all kinds of experiences, dig deep enough and you might get a restaurant reviewer to admit she loathes bone marrow, or a travel writer to confess that she prefers cold-weather destinations to beach towns.
And it’s the same with this column. When I’m kicking back with friends instead of mad-scientisting a Remix of a classic cocktail, I gravitate toward aperitifs, digestifs and amari rather than your basic whiskey or vodka mixed drink. Aperol, Lillet, vermouth, sherry, Cynar – all are major players, but my favorite is Campari, and my favorite Campari cocktail is the Negroni. I’ve remixed a few variations on the Negroni (the Boulevardier, the Old Pal), but remixing my favorite drink seems like a mug’s game. Why mess with perfection?
However, when I got a PR pitch for the new Bonne O carbonating system claiming that, unlike the SodaStream, users can carbonate liquids other than water, it caught my attention. Bartenders with access to pro carbon dioxide systems have been serving carbonated Negronis for a few years, but home bartenders were limited to adding soda to get that bubbly tingle – nice, but a much diluted version of the original.
Simply adding liquor to the “flavor chamber” of the typical seltzer system doesn’t really give you a carbonated cocktail – it gives you a very lightly alcoholic, cocktail-flavored fizzy water. However, forcing anything but water through a seltzer-making system can lead to A) contamination inside the machine, or, more immediately, B) explosions. I wanted no part of an appliance gummed up with Campari, but this Bonne O was a loaner, so I figured it wouldn’t be my problem for long. I also wanted no part of a kitchen ceiling covered with Campari, but I got around that by doing my experiments in the driveway (which turned out to be an excess of caution, but hey, better safe than sorry).
- Photo by Jessica Bryce Young
Various straight carbonation (as opposed to water-only) gadgets have come out in recent years – the Perlini, the iSi Twist ’n’ Sparkle, the Mastrad Purefizz – and one by one, all have been discontinued. Based on the red liquid still seeping out of a closed area on the Bonne O after a rinse cycle, I won’t be surprised if this isn’t a long-lived machine, either, but with some experimentation, I was very happily able to use it to create an effervescent, (practically) all-liquor Negroni. I look forward to using the system to create and bottle a few more fizzy cocktails and quick-infused sangrias before I have to send it back. If you’d like to try it for yourself, the $150 machine is available for online order at Williams-Sonoma and Bed Bath & Beyond.
1 ounce Campari 1 ounce gin 1 ounce sweet (red) vermouth
Stir together in a chilled rocks glass over ice. Garnish with a strip of orange peel.
1 cup Campari 1 cup gin 1 cup sweet (red) vermouth 1 Bonne O carbonation system
The Bonne O won't work unless everything is super-cold, so mix the spirits together in a freezer-safe container (preferably one with a pouring spout, like a Pyrex measuring cup) and leave it in the freezer for at least an hour. Also put some water (about 2/3 of a cup) in the fridge with ice to chill.
Once everything is chilled, pour the liquor into the carbonating bottle and top off with ice cubes (you should only need one or two, but the bottle must be full to work). Fill the flavor chamber with cold water, add the carbon dioxide tablet, and set to run for a full four-minute cycle. Eventually, it will stop beeping NOT COLD ENOUGH at you and start its bubbly work. When it's done, VERY CAREFULLY vent all the gases – both with the bottle release and the top bottle vent – before serving in a chilled coupe or glass of your choice. Store any leftovers in an airtight flip-top bottle.
- Photo by Jessica Bryce Young