I’m not one to make a lot of cocktails at home. Although lately I have been experimenting with simple syrups and homemade sodas, I haven’t developed that knack for mixing sweet, sour, bitter and savory in a glass. Enjoying cocktails is one of the highlights of many a dinner out these days, especially with the continued mixology boom. One of the best places to enjoy cocktails with specialty spirits and mixers is Gallo Negro in Santurce, a San Juan neighborhood. The brainchild of siblings John Mercedes and chef Maria T. Mercedes-Grubb, Gallo Negro opened in 2013 and since then has offered modern takes on American and Caribbean cuisine. Chef Maria first made waves in the Puerto Rico gastro-scene in 2011 with the UDC – Underground Dining Club, one for the island’s first pop up restaurants.
The Gallo Negro Santurce team met its match when mixologist George Jenich joined the their team in 2013. The cocktail menus he has developed for the restaurant reflect respect for cocktail culture, often taking cues from turn of the 20th century recipes. Gallo Negro stays ahead of the curve in their bar offerings, including homemade sodas, novelty spirits like absinthe and Benedictine, and boutique brands of gin, vodka and bourbon. We sampled some of George’s concoctions at a small gathering last week at the restaurant.
So… which were our favorites?
Undoubtedly, my favorite drink of the evening was the Corpse Reviver #2. A refreshing gin based drink, the Corpse Reviver #2 includes Cocchi Americano, an Italian aperitif wine similar to French lillet. Lemon and Cointreau add citrusy notes, and a few drops of absinthe round out the mix.
Close second… the Ludacris Watermelon Yum Yum. It was floral – again, very refreshing – and I loved the contrast of the cool drink with the Aleppo pepper garnish on the glass.
I can’t say no to a glass of bubbly. The delicious Death in the Afternoon (click for pic) is a take on classic drink Death in the Evening (Seattle flashbacks!), swapping the more traditional Pastis with absinthe. The bitters soaked sugar cube in the bottom of the glass balanced the drink perfectly. We also tried the Chrysanthemum, the Paloma (E’s pick of the lot), the (Pirates) Booty in Santurce, and the Bee Sting. I really enjoyed the aperitif vibe of the Chrysanthemum and the blueberry lemongrass soda in the rum punch. The homemade sodas would make a great addition to Gallo Negro’s already popular brunch menu.
Thanks George and Maria for letting us sample these and some of the other new drinks. We look forward trying some of the other libations in the menu (hello, Strawberry Shortcake In Bed!) very soon!
GreatFood360˚ was invited to a reception to launch Gallo Negro Santurce’s 2014 summer cocktails. All opinions are our own. For more pictures of the drinks featured in the cocktails menu, click here. Gallo Negro is located in 1107 Avenida Ponce de Leon, San Juan PR 00907.