Connie’s Tequila Negroni
An L.A. Woman Brings Her Own Traditions to North Carolina
Cocktail by Connie Coady
Words by Chuck Reece
Connie Coady has uncommonly deep roots in Los Angeles. Her Angeleno heritage runs so deep she has a picture of her grandfather sitting on a horse-drawn hay rake in the middle of Sepulveda Boulevard, one of the main north-south drags through West L.A.
Then one day, when she was 23, she found herself living on a goat farm in Shelton Laurel, N.C.
Shelton Laurel isn’t your average mountain community. This is a place whose Southern Gothic bona fides were sealed forever one day in January of 1863, when a Confederate regiment executed 13 accused Union sympathizers. The Shelton Laurel Massacre still lingers in Southern history and fiction. The massacre is a critical element of the great Southern novelist Ron Rash’s 2006 “The World Made Straight.”
Connie Coady was probably the only connection Shelton Laurel ever had to Los Angeles until some Hollywood folks showed up earlier this year to turn Rash’s book into a feature film.
While she in Shelton Laurel, Connie did her best to adapt to life in the Cigarette State.
“I tried so hard to become a smoker,” she says. “I thought it'd help shed my righteous, sunshiny, California wholesomeness and add to the aura I was trying to cultivate: rebel-rousing, hog-tying, truck-driving, Bud-drinking farm chick. I bought a pack of Marlboro Reds and would sit on the porch of the double-wide trailer at the goat farm teaching myself to smoke. Turned out it just made me hate cigarettes even more.”
Her adaptation skills were challenged again when she became a bartender at Table in Asheville. There she was, making cocktails for Southerners, and she — gasp! — did not like bourbon. She tried to love it, even harder than she’d tried to love cigarettes. But it just didn’t take.
“I’m a tequila girl by provenance,” she says. “Try as they might, no one can make me change my mind about bourbon, not with all the Pappy or Black Maple Hill or E.H. Taylor in the world. I tried to get on board, forcing extra-vermouthy Manhattans down the hatch, sipping from Alex’s whiskey sours. And then I gave up. Making the South feel like home has been a lesson in patience, compromise and staying true to myself. Once I stopped trying to be Southern, once I acknowledged that there was no taking the California out of the girl, the more the South felt like home.”
She might not like bourbon, but when it comes to the general subject of cocktails, Connie is very much a traditionalist.
“I love my traditional cocktails: a stirred Plymouth Gin martini with plenty of vermouth, a perfect Margarita with no extra frills, a Negroni. My transition from adolescence to adulthood, I’m pretty sure, concurred with the Negroni becoming my go-to drink. And though a properly built, equal-parts, gin Negroni is a perfect sensory experience, a Tequila Negroni is even a little truer to myself: strong, earthy, complex and bittersweet.”
Welcome South, sister. And thanks for bringing this drink along.
Chill a rocks glass (aka a single old-fashioned glass) in the freezer or by filling it with ice and water.
In a mixing glass, combine:
1 oz. Campari
1 oz. Tequila
1 oz. Carpano Antica Vermouth (plus just a smidge more)
Add ice and stir for 30 rotations.
Empty your chilled glass and pour in a scant amount of mezcal, just enough to rinse the inside of the glass, exactly as you’d rinse a Sazerac’s glass with absinthe. Connie prefers Del Maguey Minero Mezcal, but it should be noted that finding this particular Del Maguey could prove challenging. Every Del Maguey mezcal is made from the agave plants of a single Mexican village. The Minero comes from the Oaxacan village of Santa Catarina Minas. Del Maguey’s owner, Ron Cooper, has arguably done more than anyone in the spirits business to bring the same fealty to a single patch of earth that winemakers have always had for their terroir.
All this means that every Del Maguey mezcal is different — and that the output of a particular village moves onto your local shelves, and then off them, pretty fast. So just rinse your glass with the best mezcal you have on hand (not counting that dreadful yellow crap with a worm in it that you saved from college).
If you want to get picky but can’t find the Minero, we can at least help you out with Del Maguey’s official tasting notes for it: “Minero has a nose full of flower essence, vanilla and figs. With a burnt honey flavor and a bit of lemon, Minero is deep and warm, sweet all the way to the finish. Minero has a special fruity and smooth taste.” We used our bottle of Del Maguey San Luis del Rio Azul mezcal, more herbaceous and less sweet than the Minero, and it worked just fine. (But it did occur to us that adding a drop or two of honey to the mixing glass with the Campari, tequila and vermouth might bring us even closer to Connie’s original intentions.)
After you’ve rinsed your glass with the mezcal and drained it (preferably into your own mouth, because you shouldn’t waste it), add one large cube of ice and strain the contents of the mixing glass into it.
Use a vegetable peeler to cut one strip each of grapefruit and lemon peel. Cut healthy strips: about an inch wide if you can. You want lots of those citrus oils. Squeeze each peel over the drink and add it to the glass.