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Classic Cocktails With an Italian Twist in Brentwood

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Photo is by Elizabeth Daniels

If you can't make a trip to Italy this summer, you can always get a taste in Brentwood: The Westside nabe has more Italian restaurants than you can shake a wet noodle at. And if you just want a sip, head to Bar Toscana, a stylish little lounge serving classic cocktails with a Milano twist.

The bar is the new sibling of Toscana, the venerable Northern Italian restaurant that's been feeding the neighborhood since 1989. It's quickly become a hot spot for quick bites--the menu features stuzzichini, or small plates, like baked polenta croutons with gorgonzola fondue, and classic vitello tonnato, veal with an anchovy-caper sauce--but the cocktails are the reason to go. Think: Italy in a glass.

Bar manager William Perbellini uses traditional Italian spirits like Campari, Aperol and Luxardo cherry brandy in many of the drinks, so something like a margarita gets a little la dolce vita with Villa Massa orancello, sea salt and Grand Marnier-foam. You could always honor the barman by drinking his signature Pear Bellini (made by Perbellini...get it?) with pear vodka, St. Germain elderflower liquer and fresh pears. And make sure to take note of the very cool ice spheres used in most of the drinks; he makes them right there with a fun gadget.

Even the very Italian classic Negroni gets a new twist. Instead of gin, Campari and sweet vermouth get a spritz of Prosecco--it's perfectly refreshing if you like the aromatic, bitter tinge of Campari (we do). It's a taste of Milan, but a lot cheaper than a plane ticket.

Negroni Sbagliato
Recipe adapted from Bar Toscana
Makes 1 drink

  • 1 ounce Campari
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth (Martini & Rossi Vermouth Rosso)
  • 2 ounces Prosecco
  • Orange slice, for garnish
  • Sprig of thyme, for garnish

In a cocktail shaker filled with one or two ice cubes, combine the Campari, sweet vermouth and Prosecco and stir gently. Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice and garnish with the orange slice and thyme sprig.

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