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It’s that time of year again, everyone’s favorite foolish holiday. I’ve had some fun over the past few years with this one. For this April Fool’s Day I’m turning to one of my favorite group of fine folks, the local Texas talents of Kathleen Malcolmson, Perry McDaniel, and Robert Sandfield. Together they created a classic little conundrum called “Sandfield’s Unlocked Drawer” which is, as it claims to be, unlocked. Except good luck getting it open!

To toast this minny marvel of misdirection I’ve whipped up another misleading mixture. You may have noticed my penchant for the bitter classic Negroni cocktail, which I frequently feature in various forms and versions. Here’s a totally new twist on the genre, and perfect for April Fool’s Day, a “fauxgroni”. Serve this one to you friends and relatives for a sophisticated sipper with a secret. What the heck, serve it to your children too – it doesn’t have a drop of alcohol in it! “Cocktails” with no alcohol have undergone their own revolution of late, with prep and care spent in their creation equal to the degree and extent of their alcoholic counterparts in many fancy bars and restaurants. Often referred to as “mocktails”, these fancy non-alcoholic drinks are appearing on menus as “zero-proof” cocktails and other terms more fitting to their intense preparation. I’ve coined the term “Unlocked Cocktails” which I think has a nice ring to it.

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The Negroni is often thought of as the ultimate zero-proof challenge, since its three ingredients (gin, vermouth and Campari) are all alcoholic and distinctive in flavor. There’s no juice or syrup for example. How in the world can such a drink be recreated with no alcohol? One of the best examples comes from Nick Duble, head bartender at New York’s Atera. He created a “gin” by making a tea from juniper leaves and branches, a “Campari” by infusing beet juice with quinine and other aromatics, and a “vermouth” by rehydrating raisins! There are simpler ways to achieve this level of flavor, and that’s fine with me (although I am in awe of his creativity). Instead of gin I used Seedlip Spice, an innovative new product from the UK which is a distilled, non-alcoholic spirit based on techniques and recipes from 1651. The Spice contains flavors of oak, cascarilla bark, green cardamom, all spice berries, lemon peel, and grapefruit peel. I borrowed Duble’s innovative vermouth idea of rehydrating raisins, which really does taste like vermouth, and I used Italian bitter soda instead of Campari. The Italians love their bitter liquids, and they have a number of such drinks available which are non-alcoholic. The resulting “Unlocked Negroni” is a fabulous cocktail truly reminiscent of the original, and perfect for “imbibing when you aren’t imbibing”. You’d be a fool not to try one. Cheers!

Unlocked Negroni

1 oz Seedlip Spice

1 oz faux vermouth (rehydrated raisin “liquor”)

1 oz Italian bitter soda

Stir ingredients together with ice and strain into a favorite glass. Garnish with an orange peel.

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To unlock the secrets of the Unlocked Drawer see:

Boxes and Booze: Fool Me Twice

For prior Negronis: