Wouldn’t it be great if there was a “proper” cocktail you could make without requiring all that pesky equipment and those fancy techniques? A drink you can make with supermarket ingredients and household objects? Say hello to the barman’s favourite, that most exalted Italian cocktail, the Negroni. Count Negroni (1829 – 1913) must have been a pretty astute fellow. Legend has it that he asked a barman to put gin in his Americano (we’ll come to that one later) instead of soda water. This magically turned the popular lunch-time Americano into the king of aperitivos – or should that be aperitivi? Whatever. Never have a second Negroni but if you must, have it before the first one. I found this out the hard way. A wise gentleman once told me you can judge how civilized a country is by the quality of their Negronis.
The Negroni is currently experiencing something of a revival and a well deserved one too. Versions are many and varied. In my experience those using good quality bourbon, rye, mezcal or tequila are the most successful. Further experimentation is encouraged. Nay, demanded.
There are three common ways to make a Negroni and I list them in order of simplicity.
Italian style. Take a decent sized squat tumbler, half fill with ice, pour in equal quantities (see you don’t even need a measure!) of Campari, sweet vermouth (that’s the red one) and dry gin. Stir well with a teaspoon. Drop in a slice of orange. Prego!
American style. One ounce of each of the same ingredients stirred with ice and strained into a chilled stemmed cocktail glass.
1.5oz London dry gin (I use Broker’s)
1.5oz Punt e Mes (an excellent bittered sweet vermouth)
Stir well with ice in a mixing glass. Strain into a chilled Double Old Fashioned glass (I’m calling this a DOF glass from now on BTW) containing a large chunk of clear ice.
Garnish with a large swathe of orange peel.
Toast Count Negroni each and every time.
Notes: Vermouth tends to go off after a while. I suggest keeping it in the fridge or using a Vacu-Vin stopper to prolong its life. Another option is to pre-mix equal quantities of gin, sweet vermouth and Campari in one bottle. This also prolongs the life of the vermouth (higher ABV) as well as allowing you to call the resultant drinks “Glass Aged Negronis” and running the risk that people start calling you an asshole behind your back. Frankly, it’s a risk worth taking.
Alternative Negroni suggestions:
Replace the gin with rye whiskey to create The Boulevardier.
Good quality tequila (reposado or anejo) or mezcal also make very interesting gin replacements.