The Negroni is beautiful in its simplicity: it’s made with equal parts gin, sweet vermouth and Campari (a bitter Italian aperitif). Its origins can be traced back to Florence in the early 1900s when Camillo Negroni, an Italian count, asked the bartender at Caffe Casoni to add gin to his Americano cocktail instead of soda water—he was in the mood for a little more oomph. He liked the result. So did his fellow Florentines, who began asking for their Americanos “the Negroni way.”
The botanical notes of gin and sweetness of quality vermouth soften the Campari’s bite and help this sipper seem downright refreshing, if on the strong side.
With more imbibers acquiring a passion for tastes that make them pucker, the cocktail is becoming a fashionable swill to swallow. With the surge in popularity, bartenders are starting to take liberties with the original recipe by swapping out the gin and subbing in an alternative spirit, or otherwise adding their own twist.
And then there is the colour. The drink’s ruby hue first caught Calgary cocktail aficionado Tony Migliarese’s eye growing up in an Italian family—he was drawn to the cocktail’s vermillion colour, but didn’t like its bitter flavour. Over time, the taste grew on him, and now the humble Negroni is one of his favourite drinks.
“We’re gravitating toward bitter cocktails,” says Migliarese, noting the Negroni is the top-selling drink where he works at Tavernetta, a casual Italian dining spot in northeast Calgary. “You challenge your palate with a Negroni.”
Three creative Negronis to try
The Man Around Town at RauDZ Regional Table, Kelowna
Benjamin Hefford makes a Negroni combining Old Sam demerara rum with Campari, Noilly Prat red vermouth and Fino sherry. He then ages it inside an American oak barrel for five weeks.
The Negroni Bianca at Little Dom’s, Los Angeles
More restaurants are creating a white, or clear, Negroni. Little Dom’s achieved the right balance between gin, Cocchi Americano, Dolin Dry Vermouth and Calisaya, a lip-puckering herbal liqueur, with its inviting cocktail creation.
The Smoked Oaxacan at Old Major, Denver
As the beverage director Gene Fereda created a Negroni inspired by his time in Mexico. His version uses smoky mezcal, Campari, vermouth and sherry.
Recipe for a classic Negroni at home
1 oz. Campari
1 oz. London Dry-style gin, such as Tanqueray or Gordon’s
1 oz. Cocchi Vermouth di Torino
Method: Stir ingredients over ice in a mixing glass and then strain into a rocks glass over a large ice cube. Garnish with an orange twist. —Recipe courtesy Tony Migliarese, Tavernetta in Calgary
[This story appears in the June 2018 issue of WestJet Magazine]
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