Cocktails & Spirits

La Moderna's Italian Cocktails: Sipping La Dolce Vita

La Moderna opened two weeks ago in Sunset Harbour. Owner Luca D'Angelo, who also owns Fratelli La Bufala, has brought his Roman pizza-and-cocktail spot to South Beach. The restaurant, helmed by executive chef Manuel Lanni, offers Neopolitan-style pizzas, light bar bites, and rustic Italian fare, but what's most intriguing are the cocktails.

Though Italy hasn't always been known as a mecca for spirits, with Italians traditionally preferring either wines or low-alcohol aperitifs, times are changing, and craft-cocktail bars are springing up in cities like Rome and Milan, and more restaurants in Italy are offering stylish interpretations on classic drinks. La Moderna's bar program features a collection of cocktails, each with its own special name and personality.

Valentino Longo, executive bar manager at La Moderna in Rome, and executive mixologist Rusty Cerven have brought these cocktails directly from Rome, with just a few minor tweaks for Miami Beach. These libations are shaken, stirred, and thrown, then finished with some of the most stylish garnishes. 

Though La Moderna has seating for 100, including a charming breezeway patio, the bar is a fine place to grab a seat, a few bites, or maybe a pizza and enjoy some cocktails, dolce vita style. 

Italians like a good, bitter cocktail before dinner. These aperitifs are said to aid digestion — helpful when you're anticipating a long, multicourse feast. A cousin of the Negroni, the Ernesto ($13) is made with peanut-butter-infused rum, Cocchi Torino vermouth, and Gancia Americano, which gives it a fire-engine-red hue. The sweetness of the nut and rum is balanced by the herbal notes in the bitters. It's served with a golden peanut garnish. 

The Harry & Sally ($13) is made with Milagro silver tequila and fresh limes and is spiced up with pimento dram and Ancho Reyes for a cocktail with a kick. The candied ginger garnish mimics the sweet and spicy tones of the cocktail.

The Jackie Brown ($12) shares the same kick-ass attitude of the woman for which this cocktail is named. It's an espresso martini with tequila replacing the vodka and Galliano Ristretto providing a double coffee punch.

Thelma & Louise  ($13) combines fresh strawberries, Brugal rum, and hibiscus-infused Aperol for a play on bitter and fragrant. The cocktail is topped with prosecco for some bubbles and is garnished with a paper cone full of berries.

Instead of ordering a typical bloody mary, try the bloody amatriciana. House-made bacon-washed Russian Standard vodka enhances a classic bloody. Garnished with a Parmesan cracker and served in a mason jar, it's a drink that takes the bloody out of brunch time and into the night.

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Laine Doss is the food and spirits editor for Miami New Times. She has been featured on Cooking Channel's Eat Street and Food Network's Great Food Truck Race. She won an Alternative Weekly award for her feature about what it's like to wait tables.
Contact: Laine Doss