If you're looking for an ideal nightcap, the owner of this West Village bar has invented his own.
“I’m a huge fan of ending my night with Campari,” says Matt Piacentini, owner of The Up & Up in Manhattan’s West Village. Until recently his go-to nightcap was a Boulevardier — the same format as a Negroni, but with rye whiskey swapped in for the gin.
Recently, however, Piacentini has been partial to a drink of his own creation: The “Mezcal Safecracker.” It combines the smoky agave spirit and the bitter Italian liqueur with a bit of Ancho Reyes, made from pleasantly spicy ancho chiles.
Why bitter at the end of the night? “I realize it may seem counterintuitive,” says Piacentini, “But with smoky mezcal, it blends right in, smoothing out the roughness without muting any of the smoke or fruit.” Its bitterness emerges most clearly on the finish, which he thinks is perfect for a nightcap. “I want my last drink to put a period on the night, but also to linger for a while.”
Spicy Ancho Reyes is the “Safecracker” part of the equation, and does provide genuine heat. (“Clearly this is safe-cracking with explosives, not a lock-pick.”) But despite the intense elements, all three ingredients mesh beautifully. Sip the cocktail and it fades from fruit, to smoke, to bitter, to spice.
“And that spice makes it an easy drink to take slow — which is integral to the nightcap experience.”
If you have grappa on-hand, try rinsing the rocks glass with it, suggests Piacentini. “It adds another layer of earthiness in both flavor and aroma.”
1.5 ounces mezcal
1 ounce Campari
0.5 ounces Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur
Optional: 0.5 ounce grappa
If using grappa: Pour grappa into an empty rocks glass. Swirl the grappa around until the inside of the glass is well-coated, then flick into a sink to discard the excess. Set aside while making cocktail.
Combine ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir until very well-chilled. Strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice, or, ideally, one large ice cube. Garnish with a large orange peel.