I was having a meeting on perfume with my dear friend Kaya Sorhaindo. He was drinking a Negroni — I tried a sip and thought it was detestable.
Aperol Spritz was already a favorite and I had enjoyed many glasses of vermut - especially Casa Mariol - during travels in Spain. What I didn’t know, was that those two drinks were actually my entry to falling in love with the Negroni in early 2013. And like many, I became obsessed.
The classic Negroni - traditionally a pre-meal drink or aperitivo, from the Latin word “to open” - is the unlikely but perfect marriage of equal parts gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari with an orange garnish. It was allegedly invented at Caffe Casoni in Florence, Italy in 1919 by Count Camillo Negroni, who wanted something stronger than club soda in his Americano.
A cocktail so simple and easy to make, yet so easy to get wrong. And what makes it so alluring, are the endless variations and twists you can create, as long as it feels like a Negroni. Whereas others differ to say, “No Campari, no Negroni.”
After two years of total immersion; collecting recipes, experimenting, bottling, aging, creating custom concentrates and mixes, trying it at every restaurant and traveling to cocktail bars just to try their Negroni — it all came back to the classic, which is the reason people fall in love with it in the first place.
However, not all Negronis are created equal (pun intended). Here are two favorites:
A Great Negroni
1 oz Plymouth Gin
1 oz Carpano Antica Formula
1 oz Campari
1 dash Angostura Bitters
Put them together in a mixing glass.
Fill up with clear ice cubes (simply use pre-boiled water before freezing it).
Stir generously to make it really cold (the glass should feel freezing). This also releases water into the drink, binds the ingredients, and makes it smoother.
Then strain it to an Old Fashioned glass topped with new ice.
For garnish, use a generous and thick cut orange peel. Pinch it over the drink — spraying its oils over the surface. Then slide the outside of the peel along the rim before tucking it into the drink. This creates a lovely fragrant top note as you raise the glass toward your nose.
1 oz Beefeaters Gin
1 oz Dolin Vermouth de Chambery Rouge
1 oz Campari
2-3 Organic raspberries
½ oz Raspberry concentrate (it’s fine without it)
Prepare like the classic.
When strained, squeeze the raspberries over the drink to extract their juices and drop them in.
Finish with an orange peel.
Both Death & Company and Maison Premiere make great Raspberry Negronis upon request. MP adds ½ oz of lime juice, which tastes great.
How to get it wrong
- No pre-chill stirring.
- Too much gin: some bartenders like to do 1½ oz to ease the sweetness and add more kick. But I think it kills the classic.
- Cloudy and small ice: it melts and dilutes too fast making the drink watery.
- Sweet vermouth is a fortified wine, and if the wine is bad, the drink will be bad. Great: Carpano Antica Formula and Cocchi. Good: Dolin and Noilly Prat. Okay: Cinzano and Martini Rosso. Punt e Mes puts the Negroni off key – it’s a little too dark (great for chocolate or coffee Negronis though).
- The glass matters: it just tastes better in an Old Fashioned glass.
- Using a chunk or slice of orange for garnish: yes, many places in Italy do this, but you miss out on the fragrant oils.
- A cherry doesn’t belong in a Negroni.
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