"Our thing is accommodating any reasonable request."
With that, the sommelier left our table.
I took my wife to Per Se, Thomas Keller's New York City restaurant, to celebrate our last night in the city. The next morning we were moving away for her job.
And we were going out big. But this was my first fancy dinner without drinking.
One plus of dining at such a high-end spot is that they're used to accommodating, well, pretty much anything.
They poured my wife champagne when we sat down. I got a cider from Spain (presented with the same pomp and circumstance).
While she continued with wine, I drank sparkling water.
But I wanted to mix it up.
So I asked the somm if they made a good virgin negroni. I read an article somewhere about it, or so I thought.
He didn't know what I was talking about. I told him not to "make it a thing," but it sounded cool.
A negroni, after all, is pure liquor...
You mix gin, Campari and vermouth then stir. Serve over ice.
It's bitter and refreshing. And one of the strongest cocktails out there.
15 minutes after my request, a beautiful negroni hit the table.
Substantial glass, giant ice cube, orange peel, deep-ruby color... it even smelled like a negroni.
But it contained ZERO booze.
I took a sip.
It tasted... LIKE A NEGRONI.
The same, crisp and bitter notes, smooth finish and, amazingly, not that sweet.
This drink blew my mind. Even more, the bartender made it up on the spot.
It was the best and most thoughtful mocktail I've ever had, by a mile.
I couldn't stop thinking about the drink for months after I had it. So I emailed Per Se for the recipe.
And they promptly responded.Here's the recipe for a virgin negroni, thanks to the geniuses that work with Chef Keller:
Fever Tree Tonic Water
Navarro Vineyard non-alcoholic Pinot Noir Juice
Seedlip Grove 42 distilled non-alcoholic spirit (but any non-alcoholic gin will do)
Dash of Angostura and Peychaud bitter