Bitter ingredients are all the rage in cocktails these days, whether they’re balanced with sparkling wine in a spritz, adding a bitter backbone to a Negroni variation, or just contributing an intriguingly bitter edge to a mixologist’s cocktail creation. So it’s no surprise that more and more pleasingly bitter bottles are entering the market. Most recently? It’s Luxardo Bitter Bianco, the first white Italian bitter sold in the States.
While most bitter liqueurs are dark in hue, Luxardo creates a clear product from a distilled infusion of bitter herbs and ingredients — including rhubarb, thyme and bitter orange. Up at 60 proof, it’s got a bit of power behind it, balanced by a smooth sweetness against the array of bitter-herbal flavors. Chartreuse fans will dig it, amari fans will be intrigued; even gin fans should try it out. In cocktails, the Bitter Bianco slides in seamlessly, without necessarily dominating. Give it a try in these three original creations.
Easy: Bitter Bianco Manhattan
We love dry vermouth for its array of complex flavors, which integrate beautifully with Bitter Bianco — and a hefty pour of slightly spicy American rye. A little lighter than your standard Manhattan but an equally compelling balance of flavors.
Instructions: In a mixing with ice, combine 2 ounces of rye, 1/2 an ounce of Luxardo Bitter Bianco, and 1/2 an ounce of Dolin Dry vermouth. Stir that up until well-chilled, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a long, thin lemon peel, twisting it on top of the drink before you serve to spritz its citrus oils all over.
Intermediate: Bitter Bianco Aperitif
Any bitter ingredient begs to be taken for a spin in a super-dry aperitif cocktail (or if we’re being Italian here, aperitivo). Here we take the template of a Tom Collins — gin, lemon, simple syrup, soda — but swapping in Bitter Bianco for the sugar. It’s got just enough sweetness to even out the gin and lemon, while keeping the drink bone-dry and super refreshing. Rosemary amps up the herbal element.
Instructions: In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine 1 1/2 ounces of gin, 1/2 an ounce of fresh lemon juice, and 1/2 an ounce of Luxardo Bitter Bianco. Shake that until well-chilled, then strain into a tall glass with fresh ice. Top with 2 ounces of club soda and garnish with a long rosemary sprig.
Advanced: Bitter Bianco Paloma
We like bitter with gin, but we might like it even better with tequila. Tequila and grapefruit are natural friends, and a pour of Bitter Bianco stiffens up the bitter edge of grapefruit, while a bit of agave keeps it drinkable.
Instructions: In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine 1 1/2 ounce and a half of silver tequila, 1 ounce of fresh grapefruit juice, 1/2 an ounce of Luxardo Bitter Bianco, and a 1/4 ounce of agave syrup (that’s agave nectar cut with an equal part of hot water, so it dissolves more easily). Shake that until well-chilled, then strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice. Top with 1 ounce of club soda and garnish with a few grapefruit half-moons.