Explorations in Mixology Cocktails Drinking

Left Hand

The concept here is to combine two favorite classics, the Negroni and the Manhattan, into a single drink. Created in 2007 by Sam Ross of New York, this cocktail is named for the character, Lefty Ruggiero in the movie Donny Brasco. It has become somewhat of a modern classic which itself has spawned several variations. But haven’t we seen this formula before?

Discerning readers experienced with these components will look at the recipe and notice that this is just a Boulevardier with chocolate bitters. While that is the case, we have to remember that the Negroni-Manhattan marriage was an instant favorite the moment we tried it. And although it’s not a 1927 classic, the Left Hand was already three years old when we first wrote about the Boulevardier almost ten years ago. Yet, despite its comparatively short thirteen year history, this may indeed be the better version of that drink—the only reason it has taken us this long to try it is our lack of Bittermens Xocolatl Mole bitters.

Left Hand by Sam Ross
1.5 oz bourbon
.75 oz sweet vermouth
.75 oz Campari
2 dashes Xocolatl Mole bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with three brandied cocktail cherries on a pick.

The official version of this drink calls for Elijah Craig 12-year bourbon and Carpano Antica formula vermouth. Do you need Elijah? Probably not, but most expressions of it are barrel-strength, so your substitute should have some kick to it. We opted for a more economical rendition using Early Times Bottled-in-Bond 100-proof, allowing our EC (a 127-proof small batch) to live another day. We love Antica Formula vermouth, but decided to use our go-to “poor man’s Carpano” Cinzano. Both are delicious choices, so we are happy with this compromise. And, since we recently obtained the Xocolatl Mole bitters for the Oaxaca Old-Fashioned, it was nice to find another delicious use for it.

Compared to the Boulevardier, the addition of cocktail bitters is perhaps a more complete representation of the Manhattan side of this drink. Proportionally, the Left Hand is serious about the base spirit giving us a 2:1:1 ratio of ingredients while the Boulevardier follows a 3:2:2 ratio. The difference may be subtle, but we are getting more bourbon per sip than the old classic and it is especially potent using the call-out high-proof brand. We also make up some ground in the bitters department with added complexity.

You know it is going to be tasty as soon as your ice lands in the mixing glass and releases some aromatics. You wouldn’t think two dashes of chocolate bitters would make that much of a difference, but the bitters bring the ingredients together. There is tangible depth and character that includes chocolate overtones. The flavor is strong and bittersweet. Even the smell of the brandied cherry garnish elevates the experience as you sip and nibble bringing another dimension of flavor. This is a delicious cocktail worthy of collecting the necessary ingredients. It is also a drink that is easily adjusted or transformed. We have seen examples subbing mezcal for the base and, of course, there is the popular counterpart recipe called the Right Hand which subs aged rum. We can’t wait to try that one!

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