|The Negroni: The Flavor of Fall|
|Written by Eileen Forster Keck|
The past few years have seen the resurgence of not only classic cocktails, but also of bitters, in one guise or another. The familiar Angostura bitters are found in any good bar, home or away, and so are some of the aperitif drinks such as Campari. This key ingredient gives the Negroni its deep color and texture. It is an aperitif created by Gaspare Campari in the 1850s, at the time the master mixologist at his place of employment. (He was only fourteen years old when he created Campari!)
Campari, gin, and sweet vermouth in equal parts make up this rich, slightly bitter cocktail. It can be served up or on the rocks, and traditionally is garnished with a twist of burnt orange peel (zest). Sometimes a splash of soda water is added as well. It's an excellent sipping drink, and its flavor is particularly well suited to the cooler months.
Rumor has it that the Negroni was created by one Count Camillo Negroni, a Florentine. He chose, in the early 1920s, to add some zing to his favorite drink, the Americano. At his request, the bartender added gin.
At the time, Campari was not particularly popular in the English-speaking countries, though other bitters do make appearances in cocktails. During the 20s the most common appear to have been Angostura, peach, orange, and Fernet Branca. This class cocktail remained a regional pleasure for decades—the Negroni didn't appear in an English language cocktail guide until after World War II!
Here is a recipe, with classic proportions.
Shake or stir all but the garnish briskly over clean ice. Strain into either a cocktail (martini) glass, or a lowball glass with ice. If using the flamed peel, hold it over the finished drink, and twist about 1" away from the flame. Drop twist in.
My personal preference is actually for the rocks glass, and I generally use a small wedge of lime; it accents the Campari nicely.
For another variation, add a bit of orange bitters. It's difficult to find in liquor stores, but well-worth the search. You can order it here or here. Gary Regan also provides a recipe for concocting your own, in his new book The Joy of Mixology.