There’s this excellent little cluster of fancy and serious-seeming cocktails centered more-or-less around the Old Fashioned: stiff, dry, aromatic, boozy, brown-to-orange, and in all cases at least mildly embittered. A Manhattan is made with rye whiskey, punched up with Angostura bitters, and garnished with a couple nice cocktail cherries. A Negroni is made with gin and Campari and garnished with orange peel. A Boulevardier is almost a Negroni, but the ratios are juked and the gin is replaced with whiskey. All are lightened with a measure of sweet vermouth, and all are much more drinkable and delicious than their somewhat brooding presentation may suggest. You can look like a full-bore bourbon bastard while all the while sipping on something as centered on delight as a glass of chilled rosé. A sweet deal for the pretentious and the unpretentious alike.
The Man About Town, which as I understand it hails from Manhattan’s Gramercy Tavern, is almost a Boulevardier. The Campari, which in a Boulevardier livens up what is otherwise a remarkably boozy drink, is here replaced with Cynar, an herbaceous, bittersweet Sicilian amaro. That gets a big oooooh from me. Good amaro tastes and smells like an old attic, but in a way that is exciting and delicious. Cynar is dark and bitter and has a strange and tantalizing hint of artichoke. It is extremely good to drink.
On the other hand, replacing bright and punchy Campari with dark and savory Cynar is like replacing My Little Pony with Eeyore. Eeyore is a good guy and I love him, but a Man About Town is undeniably a gloomy drink, true brooder stuff. And here we are in the sunny season!
What I am suggesting today is a variation on the Man About Town that borrows some of that exotic strangeness of good amaro but without losing the invigorating technicolor zest of Campari. Do this:
1.5 oz. 90-proof or boozier rye
½ oz. Carpano Antica vermouth
½ oz. Campari
½ oz. Amaro Nonino
Mix these things together with ice, then strain into a double old fashioned with one mega ice cube. Wipe down the rim of the glass with a fresh orange peel, and then chuck the orange peel into the drink itself. Voila. Nonino is quite bitter but not dark. It’s herbaceous without being savory, mothball-y but with absolutely no subtle notes of a grandmother’s imminent death. Let’s give this variation a name: The Guy About Town. Just as about town as the Man, but a wee bit less serious about it.
Your cocktail will retain the delightful high spirits and unserious orange tint of a Boulevardier, but with a certain compelling funk. Mysterious and scrumptious, not unlike yourself.