Plus, find out the winners of the Sunset International Spirits Competition.

Lulu LA Cocktail
Thomas J. Story

The negroni may have its roots in Italy but over the years it’s spawned countless regional versions and has become my go-to cocktail whenever I see one on a menu. The original is simply equal parts gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari, which together are a delightful balance of sweet, strong, bitter, and botanical that starts on the strong side and mellows as the ice melts. It’s a drink to savor in its shifting permutations and rewards attention. Bartenders love swapping in different spirits or regional gins infused with non-traditional spices and herbs, trading out Campari for other liqueurs and alternative fortified wines.

On a recent road trip through California I had a negroni at the end of each day at various hotels and restaurants where I observed the cocktail being honored as a classic and as a blank slate for improvisation, but each and every one was excellent thanks to the use of fine spirits and the care being taken by the artisans behind the bar. It’s a testament to the state of the cocktail in the West and the producers making top shelf spirits that are the foundation of a great drink.

In this issue we celebrate the beverages, bottles, brands, bars, and people upholding the standards in the world of spirits. We also honor the esteemed winners of the annual Sunset International Spirits Competition, each and every one of them a custodian of the craft. Whether it be artisanal gin, brandy, bourbon, or any of the many subcategories of spirits, as well as, for the first time in the history of the competition, the rapidly growing world of non-alcoholic spirits, you’ll find some of the best bottles in the West and beyond. Congratulations to one and all! And I’ll drink a negroni, Western or otherwise, to that!

Read the 2023 Spirits Issue

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