Italians are not big spirits drinkers. So it is a little surprising that one of the most elegant cocktails in the world, the lovely Negroni, made its debut in Italy. Not as well-known as the Martini, the Old Fashioned or the Manhattan, a Negroni is just as sophisticated. Any bartender worth his or her salt knows how to make a good one.
Consider making a batch of Negronis for your holiday entertaining as the cocktail contains three ingredients: equal parts of gin, Campari and sweet vermouth. The Campari lends a bitter taste, the vermouth sweetens it up and the gin–well, the gin makes it all worthwhile.
There’s a lot to like about a Negroni besides the taste and the buzz. It’s a very versatile cocktail. It’s not just a girl drink or just a guy drink. It’s not a winter drink or a summer drink. You can have it on the rocks or straight up, Martini-style with a little twist of orange or lemon. You can make a big batch in a pitcher for larger groups of friends. A Negroni can be an aperitivo or an after dinner drink. It will be whatever you want it to be.
Legend Has It
There are often legendary stories about the origins of famous cocktails and the Negroni is no different. The most popular story bouncing around claims the Negroni was born in Florence about 1919. Legend has it a Count Camilo Negroni wanted to stiffen up his drink, an Americano: Campari, soda and sweet vermouth. So the Count’s bartender substituted gin for the soda and–eccolo–created a classic. There is, however, a Negroni family in New Hampshire that feels this story is bunk because their Sicilian ancestor created the drink even earlier. Apparently there is no concrete documentation for either story but who cares. I could claim my Neapolitan ancestors created the Negroni and no one would know. So let’s just say my cousin Cosimo created the Negroni and drink to him.
The Negroni Made Simple
Now, about the ingredients. Of course, use a good gin. Campari is Campari. But the secret to a great Negroni lies in buying a very good sweet, red vermouth such as Carpano Antico from Italy, the birthplace of sweet vermouth. Carpano is a little pricey, about $32.00 US, but worth it. The French make a worthy sweet vermouth with Dolin. Or try Cinzano. Since vermouth is wine-based be sure to use a wine stopper and keep it in the fridge.
Although I am not an aficionado of cocktails, I am told the Negroni should be stirred not shaken. Combine your ingredients in a mix glass with ice and pour into a rocks glass or a cocktail glass. Add a twist of lemon or orange. Some he-men like to add more gin and subtract from the Campari and vermouth. You be the judge. The Negroni is so easy to make either way.
Yield: Serves 1
Total Time: 5 m minutes
- one ounce dry gin
- one ounce Campari
- one ounce sweet vermouth
- Stir in ingredients in a mixing glass
- Serve in a cocktail glass or strain over ice in a rocks glass
- Add a lemon or orange twist if desired
- Bottoms up