Cognac, the New Black

Lato Auto, as served at Lavo Italian Restaurant in the Palazzo, $14

Sometimes a great cocktail begins with just one great ingredient and takes off from there. “I love how user-friendly Hennessy Black is to mix in cocktails, and I wanted to showcase the usability in a classic cocktail with a twist,” says Tao Group director of beverage, Edward Allen. His inspiration lies with the classic Sidecar, traditionally made with Cognac, orange liqueur and lemon juice. For his Italian take, the Lato Auto (literally, “side” and “car” in Italian), Allen uses Bertagnoli brand limoncello as “it has a great viscosity and balance.” A sunny afternoon on the Lavo patio with a Lato Auto in-hand sounds like a good start in achieving that balance.

Combine 1¾ ounces Hennessy Black, 1 ounce Bertagnoli limoncello, 1 ounce Grand Marnier and ¾ ounce fresh lemon juice in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake vigorously. Strain over fresh ice into a snifter and garnish with a lemon slice.

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John Simmons, chef and managing partner of Firefly, says this dish has been a top-seller since the local chain’s debut. “We take a gooey Medjool date, remove the pit and replace it with a smoked almond, then wrap it in thick-cut apple wood-smoked bacon, lightly fry ’em and sauce them with a tangy red-wine sauce and top with blue-cheese crumbles. They’re addictive.” We second that. $4, 9560 W. Sahara Ave., 834-3814; 3900 Paradise Road, 369-3971.