It all started in New York. It was 2016, and long-time Negroni lover Alastair White had just come across a bar serving barrel-aged Negronis. Even after returning to New Zealand, he never forgot the smoky, sweet taste – and then last year, he and his wife, Lisa White, set up Bariletto.
The Ponsonby-based company specialises in bottled Negroni mixes that have been aged in charred oak barrels. They have an intoxicating vanilla-tinged scent, and the syrupy flavour gives way to a slight smokiness that keeps it layered and interesting.
“Our journey started after being gifted a small oak barrel that we started testing many different combinations of gin, sweet vermouth and Campari in,” Lisa tells Broadsheet. “The barrel became our constant companion on holidays and at dinner parties until we eventually settled on the optimal blend that worked with the aging process.”
This turned out to be a London dry gin, a blend of several herbaceous sweet vermouths and, of course, Campari.
The Negroni sits in the barrels for approximately six months – and the barrels themselves take a long time to prepare before they see a drop of the ruby-red mixture. The Whites sourced them in Eastern Europe from a family of coopers (wooden-barrel and -cask makers) who have been manufacturing them since 1932.
“They are little pieces of art and no two are the same,” says Lisa. They have a heavy char that gives the Bariletto Negroni its smoky notes and a hint of vanilla. “It becomes ever so slightly syrupy and a lot smoother on the palate.”
Having released their first batch in June 2022, the Whites are focusing on a small-batch offering for now. “We are always experimenting and are getting close to launching a new product – but we won’t do that until it’s perfect,” says Lisa.
Each weighty glass bottle is topped with a rubber cork and decorated with attractive labels – something you’d be proud to have displayed on your shelf or bar cart.