By Reya Mehrotra
When French general Pascal Olivier de Negroni asked his bartender friend Fosco Scarselli in 1919 to strengthen his favourite cocktail by replacing the soda with gin in Americano (made with Campari, sweet vermouth and sparkling water), he did not know he had just concocted a cocktail that would go down in history—the Americano itself was adapted from aperitifs that were consumed in northern Italy in the late 19th century to better suit the American palate. Not just the soda, the traditional lemon in the cocktail was also replaced with orange garnish. Served in the same old glass, the cocktail was given a twist to get more kick without alerting the wife of Count Negroni. It failed to, however, remain a secret for long, as people were soon asking for ‘one of Count Negroni’s drinks’. Negroni was born that day at Caffe Casoni in Florence, but we are still celebrating the cocktail 101 years later.
So popular has the drink become, in fact, that Negroni week is observed every June across the globe. The custom began as a charity event in 2013 by Imbibe, the UK’s leading publisher for on-trade drinks professionals. Through the Negroni week, the cocktail is celebrated and money is raised for good causes. This year, it was celebrated from June 1-7.
The ingredients for a classic Negroni are gin, Campari and sweet vermouth—the most widely accepted recipe suggests approximately 30 ml measures of each. However, there have been numerous twists over the years, the most notable being Negroni Sbagliato (which replaces gin with sparkling wine) and white Negroni (which uses a white vermouth and Suze, a bitter French aperitif liquor, in place of Campari). “The choices are endless for creating twists… the cocktail itself follows a simple recipe of equal parts strong, sweet and bitter—gin, sweet vermouth and Campari, respectively.
As long as you keep a balance of each of those components, you can let your creative freedom run wild. Perhaps start with twisting the sweet element first and work up from there. For example, you could add an orange liqueur in place of all/some of the sweet vermouth,” says Evonne Eadie, brand ambassador, Diageo Reserve.
An evening cocktail, Negroni’s taste evolves with each sip, she says. “The first sip is different from the last, as dilution increases over time and flavours adapt to changes in temperature and water. This means that even if you are consuming in solidarity, you will be surely enamoured by it. It is also a brilliant drink to pre-batch, so you can make a larger quantity, then keep in the fridge to have on hand later in the week,” says the hospitality industry veteran and qualified spirits trainer.
There can be a good number of variations to the cocktail, but the classic one remains the best, as per Eadie. “The Negroni is a classic cocktail that has stood the test of time because it is simply delicious to drink and deliciously simple to make. The recipe itself allows for endless variations by changing the type of gin, sweet vermouth or bitters you use. Call me a traditionalist, but no matter how many Negroni twists I have tried, I will always come back to the classic,” she says.
Here’s how to make the classic Negroni: take 30 ml Tanqueray London Dry Gin, 30 ml Rosso Antico and 30 ml Campari. Add all the ingredients to a mixing glass full of ice. Stir to dilute. Strain into a chilled rocks glass with fresh ice. Garnish with an orange slice or twist.