The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

The Many Faces of Negroni

Posted on | March 4, 2015 | Written by Julia Punj | No Comments

julia's negroniThe Negroni is a classic cocktail invented in the early 1900’s as a twist on The Americano, whose original recipe was equal parts Campari, gin and sweet vermouth. A great way to kickstart the digestion and begin the meal, the Negroni quickly became a favorite of Italians and Americans alike when choosing a pre-dinner cocktail. Today the Negroni is a staple on any cocktail menu and is simple enough to be served at any dinner party.

The Negroni is the perfect balance of bitter, sweet, and citrus. It is a humble cocktail, born of Italian pride and practicality. Three ingredients, a garnish, and ice are the only things that comprise this classic cocktail, so making a Negroni at home is a simple endeavor. However, this classic cocktail yearns for experimentation. The cocktail can be made with a myriad of ingredients, and brands, and can be served in a dozen ways. The simplicity of the drink is what makes it a classic, so in order to create your own signature Negroni you must choose your ingredients wisely.

Sweet

The Negroni uses Sweet Vermouth for its smooth, sweet, floral notes that harmonize with the orange bitters and the aromatic gin that make up the rest of the drink. Sweet Vermouth is an aromatized and fortified red wine that has been drunk in France and Italy for centuries. Each brand of vermouth has its own twist, but there are only two appellations for it in the world, Chambray and Torino. You can find vermouth in any liquor store, and it can range from $2.00 to $24.00—you probably have a bottle stashed behind the vodka in your bar, but be kind to your Negroni, and throw that away. Vermouth is wine based, so it needs to be refrigerated after opening, and shouldn’t be kept more than a month.

For my signature Negroni, I choose Dolin Rouge. Although not typical and not Italian, Dolin Rouge imparts dry, slightly spicy, herbaceous, rose petal, and chamomile flavors that pair impeccably with orange bitters. If you are in a more playful mood, may I recommend a Bianco Vermouth, a recent invention. The Dolin Bianco Vermouth is white, with flavors of strawberry and bubble gum, and can be used as part of a Negroni Bianco.

Bitter

The traditional bitter component to a Negroni is an orange digestive bitter, such as Amaro, an alcohol base that’s flavored with botanicals. Traditionally used medicinally, bitters are now used as digestives and aparitivo. The bitter used in the Negroni usually comes in the form of Campari. But Campari is not the only orange bitter available today, and my personal favorite is Cappelletti Vino Aperitivo. Cappelletti is made in Alto Adige, is less sweet than Aperol, but more so than Campari, and is wine based, which means that it marries well with the vermouth. Bitter comes in a myriad of incarnations. It does not have to be dark in color or even orange. Salers Gentian Aperitif has a light straw color with earthy, herbal, and salty notes. It is a great addition to a Negroni Bianco or any cocktail that calls for a bitter element.

Gin

Gin is my favorite part of the Negroni. It supplies the strength and the heat, and it’s the unifying element of the drink. With the gin, you can dictate the direction, and personality of your signature Negroni. Gin has many variations, from Old Tom to London Dry, floral or citrus, dry or sweet, bracing or elegant, even barrel aged. Picking the right gin is a very personal endeavor. You must choose a gin that finishes the Negroni in your style. Beefeater, a London Gin, is straightforward and simple in a Negroni; Hendricks will give a floral note; and a Navy Strength like Hayman’s Royal Dock will add a punch.

I prefer Citadelle Reserve, a French Gin distilled from wheat on an open flame, with 18 different botanicals and aged in small, seasoned French Oak barrels. The botanicals such as lemon peel, clove, jasmine, anise and cinnamon play well with the vermouth, and the round, nutty complexity of the barrel age mellows out the bitters, and the heat from the spirit creates a harmonious balance. All in all, my signature, Negroni is floral and spicy with a delicate kick.

Chill

A Negroni can be served in almost any way. Up and neat, on the rocks, in a Collins glass or even in a pitcher. Keep in mind: you should always serve the cocktail cold. There are a few ways to accomplish the chill. First, you can shake. Adding all the ingredients into a shaker with ice, shake with a little hip action, and pouring into a martini glass or coupe is a great way to serve the Negroni. However, you may remember that some of the ingredients are wine based, and shaking can disrupt the delicate wine.

Another option is to simply build the Negroni in a rocks glass over a large cube or sphere of ice. This reduces dilution and keeps the strength of the Negroni. My chill of choice is the sir. Build the Negroni into a carafe with ice and use a bar spoon to stir for about sixty seconds. This allows the cocktail to chill, introduces a slight amount of dilution and helps to integrate the flavors of each element. As for presentation, I prefer most of my cocktails in a coupe, and for me, the dilution and chill from the stir is enough so no extra ice is needed.

Garnish

The garnish for any Negroni is traditionally a large swath of orange peel gently twisted in the glass. You can mix it up with another citrus, or a wheel of orange, if you want to add some sweetness to the finished cocktail. I like to keep it simple and traditional with my garnish. Simply use a vegetable peeler to cut a strip off the orange and twist it above the glass. You can run the peel along the edge of the glass if you like a little bitter with ever sip.

So there it is; five simple elements, three simple ingredients, and one perfect classic cocktail: The Negroni.

Julia’s Favorite Negroni

1 Oz Dolin Rouge Vermouth

1 Oz Cappelletti Vino Aperitivo

1 Oz Citadelle Reserve Gin

Stir over in ice for a minute and strain. Serve neat in a coupe with an orange peel twist.

The Carbonated Classic Negroni

1 part Punt a Mes Vermouth.

1 part Campari

1 part Beefeater Gin

Make enough to fill a standard Soda Stream bottle. Chill in the refrigerator, before carbonating as you would water.

Serve in a Collins glass over crushed ice, and garnish with orang wheel.

Negroni Bianco

1 ½ Oz Hayman’s Royal Dock Gin

¾ Oz Salers Gentian Aperitif

1 Oz Dolin Bianco Vermouth

Serve over a large cube or sphere of ice in a rocks glass, with a lemon twist.

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