I first discovered Lambrusco in my late 20s, when I was on staff at Food & Wine. Thinking I’d stumbled across something obscure, I bought a bottle as a hostess gift for Tina Ujlacki, the magazine’s executive food editor. When I presented her with the bottle, she graciously said, “Oh, I love Lambrusco.” Of course she did. The fizzy red was nothing new—just new to me.
I’ve since sipped the slightly effervescent red from Emilia-Romagna in northeastern Italy often. But a recent meal at Guard and Grace, which I reviewed for our February issue, is the first time I’ve seen the wine in a cocktail. Given the bubbles, it makes perfect sense: “Look how many drinks you see topped with Prosecco,” says beverage director Nikki Guard, who is determined to increase Lambrusco’s exposure.
At Guard and Grace, she uses Lambrusco in a Negroni, topping gin, Campari, Contratto Vermouth Rosso, and grapefruit bitters with a splash of the red bubbles. Not only is the effervescence fun, it serves to mellow out the famously bitter cocktail, making Guard and Grace’s take a great one for Negroni first-timers.
As for me, I know which “new” cocktail ingredient I’ll be tinkering with at home.