The Negroni recipe is a one-two-three punch—its trio of ingredients are layered within a glass, making it one of the easiest cocktails to master. And, thanks to its savoury-meets-bitter-meets-gently-sweet flavours, it’s also one of the most delicious.
“The Negroni recipe has a lot of that going for it—it has bitter, floral, herbal, and citrus notes. It’s a lot of things hitting you all at same time and, in a way, creating palate confusion. And yet, that makes for a dynamic and exciting drink,” says Sother Teague, beverage director of Overthrow Hospitality and founder of Amor y Amargo in New York, a cocktail bar built upon the foundation of bitter liqueurs and spirits, where the Negroni reigns supreme.
Indeed, break it down, and the Negroni’s seemingly simple components—gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth—pack a surprising amount of flavour. “It’s got this herbaceousness and florality from gin, quite a bit of juicy fruit and even chocolate notes from the sweet vermouth, and bitter, citrusy, even slightly salinic orange notes from the Campari,” says Teague. “If you think about each piece on a Venn Diagram and how they overlap, [you’ll see that] it’s a combination of flavours that works.”
The Negroni is one of the rare pre-Prohibition era cocktails with an origin that can actually be traced accurately. An aristocrat and bon vivant from Florence, Count Camillo Negroni was fond of another Italian invention, the Americano—a drink that employs Campari, sweet vermouth, and club soda over ice with an orange twist.
It was the early part of the 20th century and Count Negroni often found himself enjoying an aperitif at Caffe Casoni; it was frequently made for him by bartender Fosco Scarselli. Perhaps under duress from his count duties, Negroni asked Scarselli to punch up his Americano just a tad, and Scarselli obliged by adding a glug of gin.
In France, the drink lost the bubbles, and the equal-parts gin-vermouth-Campari trio became the darling of Paris, according to The Oxford Companion to Spirits and Cocktails. But it didn’t make its way onto the global scene until post-World War II.
Negroni recipe variations
Today, the Negroni has gone from wallowing in charming Italian obscurity to an in-demand drink. There is a multitude of riffs on the original—like the Kingston Negroni with rum and a little egg white for texture; the Spanish Negroni with sherry and Boulevardier (a Negroni with whiskey!); a White Negroni with the pale yellow and bitter Swiss aperitif, Suze, and Lillet Blanc; and the Oaxacan Negroni, which swaps mezcal for gin. And then, of course, there’s the Negroni Sbagliato, which is a negroni with prosecco in it (and if you don’t instinctively say that in House of the Dragon actor Emma D’Arcy’s alluring accent, we don’t know what to tell you).
How to make a Negroni the right way
The drink’s original blueprint was all equal parts, which makes it easy to remember. You can, however, up the gin component a bit, says Teague. “I do not think equal parts of the ingredients in a Negroni work today, but it might have when it was originally made,” says Teaque. “When the Negroni recipe was invented, gin was sold at a higher proof, so even though the drink was made in equal parts, the gin stood forward. Modern gins are lower proof, typically.”
At Amor y Amargo, he follows this recipe:
- 1 1/2 ounces gin
- 3/4 ounce Campari
- 3/4 ounce Cocchi Torino sweet vermouth
As for his gin of choice? London Dry style, always: Beefeater is on his bar at all times.
Use a lot of ice
According to Teague, another key to making a perfect Negroni is lots of ice. “Crowd the glass with it, whether it’s a big cube or many cubes. Use as much ice as the glass will hold for this type of drink,” he says. Because the cocktail is built in the glass and not shaken, the bitter and syrupy components of the Campari and sweet vermouth need that cold complement and dilution. “You want to maintain a temperature that’s nice and cool,” he says.
Don’t skip the garnish
In a Negroni recipe —and in many cocktails—the orange garnish isn’t ornamental. The citrus is so much more than a pop of colour or final flourish. “If you just take an orange peel and drop it in the drink, it’s just flotsam,” says Teague. “You want to make sure you give it a twist and squeeze over top of the drink. It expresses oils that are very aromatic, and aroma dictates 90% of flavour. Oils and liquids also don’t mix, so that orange oil expressed from the twist will stay on top of your drink the whole time.”
This story first appeared on www.marthastewart.com
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