I hope our last article got you in the mood for aperitivo hour, because that’s what’s on the menu this week. Specifically, the menu at Lupo Verde; and with Campari, Cocchi Americano, Zucca, and Fernet all in their rail (best rail in the city, I tell you), it’s going to be aperitivo time for a long time.
But first, I have a confession: I don’t like Negronis. They’re Italian cocktails 101, I know, and this must seem like blasphemy, but it’s the truth. I’ll freely admit they taste great, but I can never appreciate the gin, it just gets lost amidst the campari and vermouth. At home I don’t waste the gin and mix Americanos. When I’m out, if I want something a little more high test, I go for a Negroni Sbagliato instead.
But the Negroni at Lupo Verde is a Negroni worth mentioning. The addition of Barr Hill gin in the Annarella is a total game changer. The earthy honey flavor makes the gin take center stage. I could be biased, Bar Hill is my favorite gin, I just can’t get enough of that honey infused junipery goodness, but this is the most memorable Negroni I’ve ever had.
And speaking of riffs on classic Italian cocktails, an Americano variation? Hell yes! Classic juniper bite from the gin, interesting earthiness from the addition of pisco, but the muddled coffee beans are the all star. Especially since they’re left floating in the cocktail. Forget your vodka Red Bull, this is how I’m going to get my late night buzz from now.
The interesting flavor combos in the house originals aren’t bad either. Fruity Laird’s apple brandy with mandarin orange in the Toto? Sure. Limoncello and Strega? Amazing. And the Lupo Alberto doesn’t taste like anything you would imagine from reading the menu. Somehow the rye whiskey with fennel and tonic tastes sweet like banana bread upfront with tropical fruitiness on the backend. How they get pineapple notes out of rye, fennel, and tonic I’ll never understand.
By far though, my favorite original cocktail was the A’Malafemmina [the wicked woman]. Light and smooth, certainly feminine. The Aperol and mezcal lend a subtle smokey bitterness that’s cleverly hidden by the floral fruitiness of the grapefruit juice and prickly pear puree. Truly crushable, I plan to drink dozens of these this weekend.
The wine is, of course, outstanding too. Make sure to try some of the lesser well known Italian grape varietals like Sicily’s nero d’avola. I went nuts for the earthy aromas, like mud or wet earth after rain. Petrichor is one of the most coveted flavors behind the bar; to find it is like drink poetry.
Make sure to try all the amazing food after you’ve knocked back a few aperitivi. The drinks may have got me through the door, but the food kept me there all night. And to say such nice things about an Italian eatery is a big deal, my super Italian parents would be shocked. But this is the first place I plan to take them when they (finally!) visit DC.
Shocked they might be at first, but I think my parents will be as enjoy Lupo Verde as much as I do. The highly specialized Italian cuisine and beverage program are an exciting addition to 14th street. Months ago, before Lupo hit the block, that end of 14th was more of a drinking destination, a convenient place to stop on the way home from work. Now with Lupo Verde, Doi Moi, Trader Joes, Amsterdam Falafel (all the Falafel, all the damned time, please!), and sister bars Pilar and Saint-Ex, 14th is becoming my favorite food destination in the city.