The Bicycle Thief Cocktail Is A Citrus Twist On The Negroni

The Bicycle Thief cocktail was born out of New York City's drinks revival, which arguably started with the 2000 opening of the iconic bar Milk & Honey. The establishment was the brainchild of Sasha Petraske, the late great titan of the modern cocktail scene. However, it was in another of Petraske's bars, the Long Island speakeasy Dutch Kills, that the Bicycle Thief was to be created by the bartenders Zachary Gelnaw-Rubin and Abraham Hawkins. 

The alcoholic beverage was later memorialized in the book "Regarding Cocktails" which was posthumously released by Petraske's wife in 2016. The cocktail's name comes from the 1948 cinematic masterpiece of Italian neo-realism "Bicycle Thieves" which follows a father and son through war-torn Italy, looking for the father's stolen bike he desperately needs to get to work to provide for his family. 

Despite the rugged realism of its namesake, the drink itself is perfect for a warm day on the patio. Made with Campari, gin, grapefruit juice, lemon juice, and club soda, it strikes a balance between bitter botanicals and sweet citrus while the soda gives it a bubbly lift. It's a crowd-pleasing aperitif in a highball glass.

Similar cocktails to the Bicycle Thief

Although the bartenders who created the Bicycle Thief have never publicly explained their inspiration for making it, we can certainly speculate. The Negroni is the most obvious relative. The drink consists of gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth. It's botanical, spirit-forward, with a touch of dark sweetness. The Bicycle Thief also uses gin and Campari as its base and it's difficult to see how two master bartenders could have made the gin and Campari connection without thinking of a Negroni.

Two other cocktails that are less obvious are the Bicicletta and the Aperol Spritz, which both share similarities. The Bicicletta is an Italian aperitif made of Campari, white wine, and club soda. It's bubbly, citric, and bright, similar to the Aperol Spritz which is made of Aperol, prosecco, and club soda. Aperol and Campari are two distinct liqueurs but still have a lot in common, as both of these cocktails are known for being bubbly and citric. 

The Bicycle Thief ultimately combines all of these influences into something new. It takes the bitter botanicals of the Negroni and combines them with the bubbly citrus of the Bicicletta in a way that celebrates them both.