So it’s Negroni week this week, as organised by Imbibe Magazine for the last three years – you may notice bars around you pushing their Negronis and variations thereof between June 6-12. It’s all in a good cause – the bars will be donating some of the proceeds to charity, and I’ll be following suit and donating to one of the featured charities, Refugee Canteen, which helps migrants in Germany learn culinary skills and get started in the hospitality business.
I came fairly lately to the Negroni bandwagon (somewhere I read it referred to as a ‘secret hipster handshake’), not being a natural fan of its extreme bitterness, but once I did, I was hooked. The more I drink cocktails, the less I can tolerate the saccharine sweetness that seems to characterise so many modern offerings, and the Negroni is certainly an antidote to that. Add in the fact that it’s practically easier to make than a G&T (three ingredients, equal ratios), and it’s become a drink I will happily knock back on the regular (usually while making dinner, in an increasingly tipsy state, on a balmy evening).
Another great thing about Negroni Week is that there are so many variations on the classic drink – I’ve already looked at one, the Boulevardier, which swaps out the gin for whisky, creating a warmer, more wintry animal. Here I’m also going to take a look at a recent creation, the Cheeky Negroni, and later in the week I’ll have the elegant Negroni Sbagliato and the Americano (which seems to have been the precursor to the Negroni itself).
But first, here’s the classic – bitter, strong, and ideally drunk in a small Italian cafe.
1 oz gin
1 oz sweet vermouth
1 oz Campari
Mix all ingredients over ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange slice. Grimace slightly as you drink (don’t pretend this never happens!).
The Cheeky Negroni is a recent invention which I came across on Serious Eats, a sweeter, more delicate drink which substitutes the sweet vermouth for Lillet Blanc, and the Campari for its lighter, orangier [not a word] cousin Aperol. The recipe calls for Hendricks gin, for its floral, cucumbery [also not a word] qualities, but since I didn’t have any, I substituted Martin Miller’s, which I find to be similar, though more understated. If you’re not a fan of the bitter Negroni, this is a fabulous stand-in: it is sweet, but the Aperol keeps some hint of the bitter kick at the back of all that fragrant gin and Lillet.
1 oz gin (Hendricks)
1 oz Lillet Blanc
1 oz Aperol
Mix over ice and garnish with a slice of grapefruit peel.