The gentian genus makes up a small and herbaceous group of wild plants, known for their beautiful blue and yellow flowers. They are tough to farm, but flourish above the tree line in the alpine meadows of Europe, Turkey, and the Americas. The root is extremely bitter, and for centuries was taken as a digestive aid and cure-all. Today, it is used as a bittering agent in a plethora of iconic cocktail ingredients. Aperol, Campari, and Angostura all make use of it, but the best way to experience this grassy, mountain-meadowy goodness is in a gentian liqueur. These low alcohol aperitifs are light in color, making them perfect for mixed drinks. The tone does not adulterate a cocktail's color, and their earthy bitterness can add spice and surprise to an otherwise one dimensional drink.
The White Negroni is a fabulous use of the gentian's powers, and a downright brilliant twist on a bonafide classic. All of the flavor components of a classic Negroni are present, but only the gin remains verbatim. The bitter Campari is matched by the bitterness of the gentian liqueur, and the sweet vermouth is replaced by an aperitif wine like Lillet. Not only does this recipe go tit-for-tat with its ancestor, the ingredients are smartly chosen to be beautiful. Its milky white hue is a head-turning asset, and accordingly should never be shaken. For a spirit-forward variation, try dry vermouth instead of Lillet, or for something really special, take a crack at The Great Outdoors, one of our all-time favorites. No matter which you choose, take a moment to pour yourself a bit of that milky bitter stuff on the rocks. After all, how often does one get to drink the root-water of mountain flowers?