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  • Writer's pictureEric Elkins

Ode: The Family Jones Early Grey Negroni at MCA Café & Bar

Okay, okay. It’s true that you can easily buy yourself a bottle of Family Jones gin from a liquor store, along with Campari and sweet vermouth (or Cocchi, which I tend to favor), grab a big ice cube or sphere from your freezer, carefully measure out equal thirds of each spirit into your glass and give them a stir, squeeze a bit o’ lemon rind over the top and drop it in, then sip on your front stoop to your heart’s content.

I mean, you can literally buy a pre-mixed bottle of Family Jones Earl Grey Negroni and pour it over a big rock and be done with it, if you want to. (Don’t skip the lemon zest, though.)

Nothing wrong with either of those scenarios, especially during actual negroni season, when the boozy sipper conveys the bittersweet and fleeting loveliness that hovers around the solstice — the joys of late sunsets counterbalanced with a consciousness that the days are already growing shorter again — distant echoes of carefree childhood summer breaks gently diminishing and becoming harder to perceive amidst the noise and busyness of each ensuing grownup summer, these long, magical evenings the very, very last vestige of a time when we didn’t have to slog away at our jobs instead of lolling lazily on our friend’s couches in the A/C or exploring our neighborhoods by bike from just after breakfast until Dad called out for the third time to get our asses home for dinner, before heading back out into the warm, velvet night for more precious hours with friends.

Really, as long as you’re drinking your negroni outside — under the shade of a Campari umbrella or the overhang of your porch, on an urban rooftop or watching the dog play in the backyard — you’re doing it right.

So, yeah, spending a chunk of change on a cocktail you could literally pour out of a bottle at home does seem, I don’t know, indulgent in this wobbly and weird economic moment.

But hear me out.

Make a date and wander over to the Museum of Contemporary Art on a late afternoon, with the intention of playing some cultural hooky and taking in the latest exhibitions — oohing over the modern art that resonates, shaking your head at the stuff you just don’t get. Start in the basement, enjoy the caesura of the concrete stairwells between artistic nibbles, consider every morsel of creative expression as you slowly make your way, floor by floor, to the rooftop.

By the time you get there, you’ll be mentally flooded with thoughts and opinions, but physically parched and in need of a drink.

Stroll on into the air-conditioned serenity of the MCA Café & Bar and order cocktails. It won’t be busy up there, so chat for a sec with the bartender, making goo-goo eyes as you recount the piece of art that blew you away, leaning in to hear an anecdote while they concoct your drinks, tip well for the service, and then step out the glass doors to the rooftop deck.

Clink your glasses and look up 15th Street into town, then down — all the way to the sun dipping below the far horizon. Then take a moment to taste the balanced, brightly bitter beverage, the herbaceous earl grey undertones, while you ponder for a moment this grownup flavor of vibrant red and how it differs from the artificial joys of Twizzlers and Tropical Punch Kool-Aid.

Sip and converse, enjoy a perfect evening outside, try not to look too closely into the living spaces in the building across Delgany, and close your eyes as the tender evening air settles on your skin.

It’s summertime in Denver.

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