I’m one of three cocktail judges cuddled up in a dark corner booth of Mesa’s hip and moody lounge with two-dozen cocktails lined up, eight per person, each sweating rings on the table. Jen from LA Times, Emily Delicce from Vacation Bar (opening soon), and I request spittoons, grab our judging sheets and work through the red drinks like we’re taking our SAT’s in complete silence.
This is serious cocktail business.
Judging complete, we break the silence with smiles. I whisper, “okay, what was your favorite?” Surprisingly, we all three point at the same one. Served in a stemless wine glass with a thin slice of dehydrated fruit garnish trapping the chilled aromatics of the rose petal-colored drink inside, we investigate the eight nearby bartenders to see who may have crafted this stellar Italian masterpiece. No surprise, it’s Neapolitan-style ECCO Pizzeria & Bar from Costa Mesa, Anaheim, and soon to be Irvine.
The eight cocktail contestants had to use Botanist Gin and Campari as base ingredients and could choose the vermouth and any other additions of their liking. Our winner, Isabella Martinez, looking like a tall drink herself, infused her gin with hibiscus and topped her luscious drink with pink sea salt and grapefruit infused dark chocolate shavings.
Why did we all fall in love with ECCO’s Miami Negroni? I, for one, felt its floral, strawberry jammy tones paved the way for the perfect Negroni cocktail backbone. In between sips, the garnish cap of speared citrus/pineapple fruit rollup provided a satisfying snack in between sips.
Don’t miss out on this Negroni Week gem! Find it at both ECCO Pizzeria & Bar locations:
- 2937 Bristol St A103, Costa Mesa
- 440 S Anaheim Blvd, Anaheim Packing House
Other Negroni Week Launch participants included:
Dry Society – Andrew Parish
Mesa Lounge – Jordan Kutchma
The Blind Rabbit – Robert Adamson
HopScotch – Jose Zepeda
Beer Belly: a craft beer bar – Sherwood Souzankari
Ecco Pizzeria & Bar – Isabella Martinez
The Blind Pig – Ryan Autry
Vaca – David Saenz