Negroni Week

Maurice Amon NegroniWe’re approaching the end of Negroni week, and I sure have made a lot of them at my bar.  It’s not that people asked for them…I don’t get many requests for Negronis.  But when I recommend them, and someone tries one, they often ask for another.  Negroni is a very accessible drink made with Campari, an aperitif that many people find a little hard on the taste buds.

Negronis are one part gin, one part sweet vermouth, and one part Campari.  Garnish with an orange peel.  It’s typically served neat, either up or in a rocks glass.  I like using Greenhook Ginsmiths gin, Noilly Prat sweet vermouth, and just a sliver of orange peel shaved off with a potato peeler.  Be sure to stir the drink – shaking it will give the drink bubbles, which will kill the sweetness needed to balance out the bitter Campari.

Like most cocktails, nobody really knows who first made the cocktail, but there are a handful of myths that are passed around the bar industry.  It is generally accepted as an Italian drink from Florence from the early 1900’s.  Caffé Cavalli lays claim to the origin bar, which at the time had a different name.  The story is that there was a count named Negroni who invented it.  He asked the bartender to make an Americano, which in the cocktail world is simply Campari and sweet vermouth, splashed with a little club soda.  In the interest of speeding up the road to intoxication, the count asked to replace the seltzer with gin.  The bartender obliged, garnishing with an orange peel instead of the lemon peel typically served with Americanos as a signifier that the drink was different.

I take all stories like this with a grain of salt.  The cocktail community can get downright mythological.  I feel like I could make a story up like this after a few Negronis myself.

Whatever the origin, the cocktail took off.  Later, the Negroni family founded the Negroni Distillerie, making bottled versions of the cocktail.

A Negroni is an acquired taste.  There is a definite bitterness that many casual cocktail sippers may not enjoy.  You’ll need to enjoy the taste of gin, particularly if you use a stong-flavored one like Greenhook.  It has as much alcohol as a Manhattan, so watch out…the buzz will sneak up on you.  Especially if you drink it before dinner on an empty stomach, as aperitifs are meant to be imbibed.