While the Pisco Punch might have undisputed San Francisco heritage, the Negroni often feels more like the official cocktail of San Francisco. The equal measures of gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari said to have been invented in Florence by Count Camillo Negroni result in a drink that is stiff, slightly sweet, and gently bitter. Orson bar manager Ian Adams and bartender Bryan Shoffit are so taken by it that they created a whole cocktail menu that riffs on the Negroni.
"The menu came about as the result of a conversation Bryan and I were having about the flawlessness that is the Negroni and how well it translates into so many different variations that are distinct and significant -- unlike, say, the 1001 variations on 'The Last Word,'" explains Adams.
The structure of the menu is based on Adams' other life as a music performer; it's named for a solo trumpet piece called "Aria con Variazioni" that's known for dynamic swells and shifts. Not being musically gifted, we can't say how well the structure of the menu correlates to the aria, but we do know that the experiment demonstrates the many expressions a simple recipe can have. It might be based on a solo piece, but it's a great excuse to get the band back together.
Orson's Negroni Aria menu (all $10):
Negroni: gin, Campari, sweet vermouth
Anne Boleyn: gin, Aperol, rosato vermouth, orange bitters
Boulevardier: rye, Campari, sweet vermouth, orange bitters
El Camino Real: añejo tequila, Campari, Benedictine, orange bitters
Bijou: gin, green chartreuse, bianco vermouth, orange bitters
Hard to Make a Living: gin, lemon, sugar, egg white, Negroni float
Orson, 508 Fourth St. (at Bryant), 777-1508