Monday, October 29, 2007

Negroni Revisited

This weekend, I found myself on the road in southern Illinois (I know, you're jealous). It was a bit harder to find a great cocktail, but I did manage to find a couple of great bars in Champaign-Urbana. In one of my stops, I revisited one of my favorite drinks, the Negroni, and was reminded of some great variations on it that I've had in recent months.

Now the Negroni is the Negroni, and pretty much every single bartending book I consulted has the same recipe. Maybe I should just leave it as it is, but I like playing around with recipes and seeing what others have done with it as well.

Here is the original, for anyone who might not yet have tried one:

1 part Gin
1 part Sweet Vermouth (classically, Cinzano Rosso)
1 part Campari

Traditionally, it would be served on the rocks (and stirred gently), but it can also be served in a cocktail glass after shaking with ice. The traditional garnish would be a slice of orange or an orange twist (you could even flame it if you wanted).

Brief History
Legend has it that the Negroni was named for Count Negroni, who often ordered it at a bar in Italy, initially as an Americano with gin added. The Americans were already loving the Americano drink, so they also adopted the Negroni and some brought it home with them. The drink is intended as a pre-dinner drink, an aperitif, to stimulate the appetite.

Drink Tinkering
You have a choice in gin, and vermouth, and those will affect the final drink. Sweet vermouths can vary quite a lot in flavor, spice and sweetness, so the balance with the Campari can vary quite a bit. You could also adjust the proportions, which I have been known to do (sometimes the Campari is just a bit too much for me in the original proportions, so I'll tone it down just a bit, or I might add a dash extra).

And, if you are OK with bucking tradition, you could substitute another spirit for the Campari.

Here is my favorite version right now, which I learned from Josh Kaplan, the beverage guru at MK Restaurant in Chicago:

MK's Negroni Recipe
1 part Gin (he was using our Distiller's Gin No. 6, but it also works with other gins)
1 part Vya Sweet Vermouth
1 part Aperol

Served up, and garnished with an orange twist.

The Aperol is a bitter, but not as bitter as Campari, and its flavor profile is a bit different (sweet orange rather than spice). It blends particularly nicely with the Vya sweet vermouth - I have consistently been impressed with the combination. It has a lovely balance of flavors, each making itself known, rather than one dominating the drink.

Anyone have a favorite Negroni recipe other than the original?


Anonymous said...

Try the Mistaken Negroni, very popular in Italy in this moment (Negroni Sbagliato).
Just substitute the gin with Prosecco and keep Campari & Sweet vermouth (I actually prefer Cinzano Rosso)

~Sonja~ said...

I will give that one a try - sounds interesting. And I had neglected to mention earlier (but have since added) that Cinzano Rosso is the classic vermouth for the drink, I'll try it with your modification. Thanks for the comment!

DougP said...

I have a slight preference for about a 5:4:3 (gin:campari:vermouth) ratio, unless the gin is particularly strong-flavored (with Junipero, I'll go with the classic 1:1:1). I love Negronis and find them to be well-suited to a bit of proportion tweaking to fit the individual drinker's taste.

~Sonja~ said...

Thanks for your comment, Doug! I totally agree about the drink being well-suited to tweaking. I'll have to give your ratio a try, I'm not sure I've tried that one yet.

JMF said...

Here is a challenge: I need to substitute the vermouth in the Negroni with something that is not grape-based, because of a grape allergy. Any ideas?

Chris said...

You mention finding a couple of great bars in Champaign-Urbana. I'll be visiting there to help a fellow imbiber out and name names?

~Sonja~ said...

Hi Chris, here are a few spots I always visit when I'm in Champaign:

Seven Saints (ask for Andy - he's an even bigger cocktail nerd than I am)
Radio Maria (the cocktail guy there, Chris, just moved to NOLA, but there are some other great folks there)
Boltini Lounge

I also really like Bacaro (great food & wine list) and Jim Gould (especially for brunch), although their cocktail offerings are a bit more limited. Every time I go, I find something new too, so explore!

r. chan weave said...

Recently in Chicago I had a version that dropped the vermouth for an elixir called Hum, a botanical infused liquor that has a very ginger presence. The ratio was 1 part gin, 1 part Campari and 1 part Hum. While I loved the initial cocktail i've toned it down by reducing the Hum to 1/2 part, replacing the Campari to 1/2 part Aperol and 1.5 parts Bombay gin, shaken and served with an orange twist. This allows the gin's juniper to shine a bit more and also the drink is not nearly so sweet.

.............................. said...

I like to substitute St. Germaine (a lovely elderflower liqueur) for the sweet vermouth, and use aperol instead of campari. Adding lemon juice as well to help balance the drink- keeping it from being too sweet. It's delicious! I do 1 oz of each, shake with ice, and strain. Yum.