The Negroni is considered by many to be the perfect cocktail. A balance of bitterness, sweetness, dryness and spicy aromatics. It is also simple to make, being made of only three ingredients, equal parts Gin, Vermouth and Campari and served with ice and orange rind.
Personally, I love a good classic Negroni, easily considering it my favourite cocktail or mixed drink. The taste of a Negroni is polarizing, you either love them or hate them ( The coriander of the cocktail world). Those who enjoy bitter notes however, will usually love the taste.
Of course for many, bitterness is something that they struggle with. However if you appreciate the bitter notes from coffee or dark chocolate then you are ready for a Negroni.
So What Does A Negroni Taste Like?
The Negroni is an acquired taste due largely to its bitterness, but don't let that put you off. The beauty of a classic Negroni is in its balance. The bitterness is counteracted with sweetness leaving a refreshing bitter-sweetness that gets your taste buds dancing.
A Negroni is however quite a strong cocktail coming in at about 24% ABV or 2 standard drinks.( Of course this depends on the strength of the gin or vermouth you are using). This is because it contains no mixers such as soda's or juices.
Another aspect to its unique flavour profile is the aromats. As the drink is made from 3 liquors all renowned for their use of herbs and spices in their manufacture, it is hardly surprising.
It is this bitter-sweetness combined with the spiciness from the aromats that make it such a special drink.
This year (2019) sees the 100 anniversary of this much loved but polarizing cocktail. The story goes that in Florence, Italy in 1919, Count Camillo Negroni asked his bartender to make his Americano (Itself another classic cocktail) stronger by substituting Gin for the soda and thus the Negroni was born.
The Negroni family then founded "Negroni Distillerie" a distillery that specialized in a ready made version of the drink.
Started in 2013, Negroni Week is a seven day tribute to the Negroni. During this week long celebration, bars around the world, having registered as participants, donate money and proceeds to a number of local charities.
Negroni week also sees these same bars, create variations of the classic Negroni and offer them for that week only. Whilst many variations use different gin's, vermouth's or amaro's other than the traditional Campari, some add interesting new flavours. During last years Negroni week, I tried a coffee Negroni and an interestingly delicious beetroot Negroni.
This year Negroni week is next week June 24-30. To find out what bars are participating near you, simply visit the Negroni Week website.
So what is in a Negroni?
A Negroni is comprised of three different liquors, Amaro (Traditionally Campari), Gin and Sweet Vermouth.
So lets start with the Amaro. An Amaro ( which means bitter in Italian) is a bitter liqueur from Italy. It is made from a spirit base, utilizing citrus fruits and flavoured with herbs. The most common citrus used is the bitter Chinotto Orange.
The traditional Negroni uses Campari although using differing Amaro's will add different complexities to your drink. My favourite Amaro is one from Applewood Distillery in Australia called Okar, flavoured with native ingredients such as Davidson Plums. However I rarely use it to make a Negroni as I much prefer to drink it neat over ice.
Vermouth is an Amaro made using a fortified wine base and flavoured with herbs, spices and other aromatics. Originally used for medicinal purposes, it is as an aperitif in Italy where its popularity began.
Vermouth is a component of some of the best known cocktails in the world including the Martini, the Manhattan and of course the Negroni. Historically coming in two differing styles of White (also known as Dry or French) and Red (also referred to as Sweet or Italian). Today there are a number of newer styles available.
Unlike the drier Martini, it is the sweet red Vermouth that is used in a Negroni. The sweetness of the Vermouth offers the counter point to the bitterness of the Campari.
Gin is where the real variety comes into a Negroni. The past decade has seen a real resurgence in Gin and as such the varieties available are numerous and varied. Gin is a distilled spirit made typically with Juniper berries as the most pronounced aromatic, but utilizing many others as well.
With the current popularity of Gin, we have seen an ever expanding array of Gin styles and flavours. As such, changing which Gin you use in your Negroni can vastly alter the flavour profile.
How to make a Negroni
The recipe itself could not be any simpler. Combine 30ml of Campari, 30ml of Gin and 30ml of Sweet Red Vermouth either in a shaker with ice or a muddling jug with ice. Strain into an Old Fashioned glass ( or your glass of choice) with ice and garnish with a slice of Orange or a twist of Zest.
Like many cocktails, there is much argument over whether a Negroni should be shaken in a cocktail shaker or mixed in a jug. I myself tend to use a shaker.
Personally my go to ingredients are Cinzano Rosso Vermouth, Tanqueray London Dry Gin and Campari and a twist of orange zest. To add extra aroma and flavour, I like to twist and therefore bruise the orange zest, thus releasing the volatile oils, then rub the zest around the rim of the glass before putting it in the drink.
One of the great things about this type of cocktail is that you can make it premixed. Whether you plan on offer a welcoming Negroni to your guests or simply have it ready to go for your own enjoyment, premixing is simple.
To do so, buy equal sized bottles ( making sure that they are genuinely equal and not say 700ml, 700ml and 750ml). Then mix all together and using a funnel pour them back into the three bottles. When it is time to serve, just pour over ice and garnish.
Cheers! I hope to see you at a Negroni Week event next week or in future years.
Divorced and nearly 50 I rediscovered who I was.