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A Michigan riff on the Negroni

Lester Graham
Michigan Radio

Michigan distillers are expanding their offerings in many different ways, but recently Ann Arbor Distilling Company took a different direction than most.

Distillers’ tasting rooms cannot use any kind of alcohol not made by the distillery. That’s meant some have come up with some of their own products to imitate the ingredients in classic cocktails. Ann Arbor Distilling took that idea and is now selling it to the public. It’s called Water Hill Apertivo.

Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
Ann Arbor Distilling Company's ingredients, including the new apertivo.

“This basically fits into that Aperol, Campari kind of category, which is a brand new category for Michigan distillers to be producing something and gives them a lot more options in their tasting room,” said Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings.

But, this apertivo really doesn’t taste like Aperol or Campari. It’s a different flavor, not as sweet, and more herbal.

“It is its own unique thing and it’s a really interesting thing,” Tammy said.

The Water Hill Apertivo uses 18 different herbs and botanicals including hibiscus, sage, anise, clove, mint, and mugwort among other things. It’s less citrus forward than Aperol or Campari, but there are hints of grapefruit, orange, and pomelo.

She decided to use the apertivo in a drink based on one on the distillery’s menu called the MI-Groni (a play on a Negroni).

“A classic negroni is equal parts, gin, sweet vermouth and Campari. And so their MI-Groni is gin, aperitivo and cranberry liqueur. I just picked up their house raspberry liqueur and I wanted to give that my little spin instead,” she said.

Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
Tammy Coxen with the ingredients for the Water Hill Negroni.

Tammy later confessed she went with the raspberry before she read her notes which indicated she should use cranberry liqueur. Ooops.

It was a happy accident, because the drink was really nice.

“I just went with regular Negroni proportions, so I did equal parts of the Spring Gin, the Water Hill Aperitivo, and the raspberry liqueur from Ann Arbor Distilling Company. And then I thought it just needed a little something to round it out. So I did something they can't and I threw a dash of Angostura bitters in there too,” she explained. There was also an orange twist garnish.

But, cranberry sounds really good. So, she mixed a small one of those as well without the Angostura bitters.  Also very good, but definitely less sweet tasting. Feel free to experiment.

Water Hill Negroni

Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
The Water Hill Negroni. Stirred, not shaken.


1 oz Ann Arbor Distilling Spring gin

1 oz Water Hill Aperitivo

1 oz Water Hill Raspberry liqueur

1 dash Angostura bitters

Garnish: orange twist

Combine ingredients in mixing glass or tin with ice. Stir very well and strain into ice-filled rocks glass. Garnish.

(For a MI-Groni, use Water Hill Cranberry liqueur and omit bitters)

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Public from 1998-2010.
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