I began this week’s explorations with a bit of trepidation. I had bought my bottle of Campari a couple months ago and hadn’t done much with it. In my early reading on the aperitif I had found that people often ordered a Campari and Soda, so I decided that was as good a place as any to start. I was not particularly impressed. The drink was tremendously bitter, but despite this I could taste the spirit’s potential. So on the shelf it went in anticipation of a delicious cocktail in which to use it.
The Negroni turned out to be just such a cocktail. Using the 1:1:1 classic recipe you end up with a cocktail that has great flavor, a nice level of bitterness and perfect balance. Were I simply looking for a good recipe for this cocktail I would happily stop here. I, however, was on a mission for a great recipe. So I continued my hunt. I next tried a recipe I had found in a thread on eGullet, the Cinnabar Negroni as served at Cinnabar in Glendale, CA.
2 oz Campari 1 oz Gin 1 oz Sweet Vermouth 2 dashes Orange Bitters
This too is a good recipe, and strangely isn’t too bitter from the additional Campari. The addition of orange bitters, Regan’s in my case, didnt’ seem to add much in this recipe. It did,however, give me the idea to try them with the classic recipe. What I found out from this subsequent experiment is that orange bitters truly make this cocktail. You can really taste them with the decreased Campari and they add a wonderful citrusy complexity to the drink. Another recipe I tried was described as a Smoother Negroni in the eGullet thread.
2 oz Gin 1 oz Sweet Vermouth 1/2 oz Campari
This is, doubtless, a very good cocktail, but I don’t think I can really call it a Negroni. When you’ve increased the Gin so much and decrease the Campari comparably the resulting cocktail is fundamentally different. Seems that Gary Regan had similar feelings with his modified Negroni that he thus renamed the Valentino.
Gary Regan's Valentino
2 oz Gin 1/2 oz Sweet Vermouth 1/2 oz Campari
Each recipe that I tried was very good, but I kept coming back to the classic recipe as my hands down favorite. I do make the aforementioned change of adding orange bitters which I think really heightens this cocktail. As for shaking versus stirring I found that the flavor is the same either way. You may get a touch more dillution with shaking from the ice particles, but the main difference you’ll notice is the appearance. The shaken cocktail is quite cloudy and remains so for a while after serving. Because of this, a stirred Negroni is my choice. Finally, you can serve this cocktail up or on the rocks. I think the up version is a more elegant cocktail, but if the bitterness is too bold for you initially try it over ice and let it dilute a bit. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. With those notes I present our version of this cocktail.
The Cocktail Hacker Negroni
1 oz Gin 1 oz Sweet Vermouth 1 oz Campari 2-3 dashes Regan's Orange Bitters
1) Combine ingredients in shaker bottom or pint glass 2) Stir until well chilled 3) Strain into a cocktail glass
My other focus for the week was garnishing. I tried a technique I read about in “The Joy of Mixology” by Gary Regan. The technique called for zesting a lemon (orange in my case) and lining a cocktail glass with the resulting zest. It looked like a good plan in the preliminary stages, but when I added the cocktail the zest floated and messed up the look. Not sure how to correct this, but I’ll have to try again with another cocktail. The other garnish I tried, and loved, was to use a v-slicer to cut very thin slices of orange and float one on the top of the cocktail. I really like the look of this garnish and if you get an orange with a not too bitter pith you can eat the whole thing, which is fantastic. The one garnish that was recommended that I didn’t get a chance to try was flamed orange zest. It’ll have to be next time.
So, despite my initial thoughts that this may be the first cocktail on the site that I didn’t like, I found another gem. This cocktail is colorful, has great flavors and is wonderfully complex. I can easily say that it is well worth a trip to the liquor store for a bottle of Campari. I took a ton of pictures this week and they’re all posted in the Flickr pool.