The Negroni. It’s always been there, patiently waiting, eager for your approval. It doesn’t offer you anything complicated, it is a little simple. It’s also everything we ever look for; it’s smooth, yet distinctive; its enticing smell, its eye-catching look are what we want, yet we leave it alone to sit like a wallflower at a high school prom. I’m here to point out this travesty and attempt to show you the error of your ways.
There are several accounts – hotly debated as any trifling matter in Italy is – that trace the origins of drink back to 1919, when a wealthy Florentine, Count Camillo Negroni, suggested to the bartender at the Hotel Baglioni that he add gin to his mild combination of Campari, sweet vermouth and soda, and from that a classic was born.
It glinted like a polished ruby and left a sweet orange scent in the air. I needed to know what it was.
Like the Manhattan, the Negroni can be served straight up or on the rocks. But no matter the glass or style in which it is served, I will always remember the first time I saw one. It glinted like a polished ruby and left a sweet orange scent in the air. I needed to know what it was as a hostess whisked one by on a tray; I went over and asked a particularly hipster looking bartender who had just prepared the drink which had piqued my senses; he told me about the mystery concoction and pointed it out in their menu.
Looking back, I don’t know how I had missed it. I wasn’t that inebriated, it was only two in the afternoon and we were only six drinks into our boozy lunch, and as an avid gin drinker it still baffles me how it had passed me by for so long. As with many of the classics, you will find two schools – shaking versus stirring – each adamantly certain of its correctness. I personally bunk in the second camp. There are only two drinks I insist not be shaken, the Manhattan and the Negroni. The bubbles and ice that give zest to some cocktails would disturb the Negroni’s subtlety which for me just won’t do. That first sip should be like drinking from a cool brook that happened to meander past a spice bazaar on its route.
Whilst the traditional recipe calls for equal measures of all three liquors, the diversity of this drink is endless. I, like many more modern cocktail palates, prefer a much drier flavour, so I usually follow a gin heavy method. We may trivialise many things in life, but the one thing we must always take most seriously is our choice of gin.
Order a Negroni, and while away the hours embracing your inner Fellini drinking ’til dawn.
Whether you want a nice sweeter floral gin such as Hendricks or something with a strong backbone and a firm constitution like Plymouth, or a classic performance gin such as Tanqueray, which is the usual juniper juice used at any half-reputable bar, just promise that if they bring out Gordons get up and leave. Life is far too short. Variety is the spice of life and if you are an enthusiast you simply have to try them all – hardly a bad way to spend an afternoon.
For all its long history and variations, the Negroni remains a relative stranger on our usual roster of cocktails. It merits wider recognition, as I know of no better aperitif. I suggest one before any dinner, but never more than one on an empty stomach, its unusual flavours hiding its potency. In an effort to boost its popularity across the pond, imbibemagazine.com along with Campari developed the #NegroniWeek between 2nd and 8th June last year. Bars, restaurants, and clubs came together to serve what I believe to be one of the best cocktails any establishment can offer.
So I urge you, don’t leave our Italian beauty left on the shelf; throw on a fine cut suit, play a sultry jazz soundtrack, order a Negroni, and while away the hours embracing your inner Fellini drinking ’til dawn.
- 25ml Tanqueray Gin
- 25ml Campari
- 25ml Martini Rosso sweet vermouth
- 50ml Tanqueray Gin
- 12.5ml Campari
- 12.5ml Martini Rosso sweet vermouth
Stir ingredients in a mixing glass with cubed ice until chilled. Strain into a chilled rocks glass with ice, and garnish with a generous slice of orange peel