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I grew up in a Cheap Wine household. It wasn’t that my dad didn’t like the good stuff, but on a Tuesday night an $8 bottle of supermarket Zinfandel did the trick. And even though he had a wine cellar full of Two Buck Chuck—and by “wine cellar” I mean a hot hall closet cluttered with off-brand liqueurs that were on special at BevMo—he instilled in me a prejudice that lasts to this day: In this house we do not drink boxed wine.
So it was with some hesitancy that I tried Brooklyn distillery St. Agrestis’ latest offering—boxed Negroni. Would the ghost of George Fegan haunt my happy hour? Three-quarters of a box later, there’s no sign of his displeasure, and I’m a boxed cocktail convert.
St. Agrestis, a pioneer in the small-batch American amaro trend, released its eponymous amaro in 2014. A few years later it launched Inferno Bitter—a red aperitivo akin to Campari but with even more of a bitter bite—along with single-serving Negronis. The pre-batched cocktail combines Inferno Bitter with Greenhook Gin and house-made vermouth and comes in adorable bottles perfect for the park or smuggling into a movie theater.
For the boxed version, St. Agrestis gave its Negroni the Costco treatment. Each box contains 60 ounces of cocktail packaged in a plastic bag inside a spigoted box about the size of a babka. It’s as good a Negroni as I could make at home—bittersweet and complex with herbaceous notes balanced by warm vanilla and citrus. At 24% ABV, it’s also bracingly boozy, so even though I store the box in my refrigerator, I drink it over ice for a bit of dilution, sometimes even topped off with a splash of soda.
Both the best and worst thing about boxed Negroni is how terribly convenient it is. Like a frozen pizza bagel, Negroni in a box is a Negroni you can have anytime. As far as problems go, this is a good one to have—but during a global pandemic, I’m not sure I needed drinking to be more accessible. In normal times, the 20-serving box would be fantastic for a party, relieving the host of bartending duties. But there are no guests to help me work through more than a magnum’s worth of straight booze, and I don’t live in a big co-op where lentils and nutritional yeast and cocktails are bought in bulk.
When I open my fridge to contemplate dinner or forage for a cheese snack, the purple-and-yellow St. Agrestis box is there and a Negroni is only a squeeze of the spigot away. I’d like to say that I at least go to the trouble of peeling an orange for a garnish, but my Old Man didn’t raise a liar.
$60.00, Astor Wine & Spirits
Originally Appeared on Bon Appétit