Happy Hour Quickie #1: Negroni

This week’s fast, easy, and effective recipe. Hey, you’ve got only an hour.

Negroni_served_in_Vancouver_BC
The Negroni: A classic that’s easy to provision, fun to modify, and hard to screw up. Courtesy wikimedia.

This was my gateway cocktail, a classic. Equal parts of three ubiquitous ingredients, so it’s easy to gather the booze and assemble fast, with zero risk of screwing up.

  • .75 oz gin
    • Any London dry is fine
  • .75 oz Campari
    • One of the bitterest of the at-any-county-liquor-store aperitifs
  • .75 oz sweet vermouth
    • aka Italian or red vermouth

Fast build: Add all ingredients over ice in Old Fashioned glass. Stir gently. Orange peel garnish. Lemon will work in a pinch.

You can also stir the ingredients in a mixing glass and strain over fresh ice. I find there’s virtually no difference in outcome.

If this makes me a vulgarian, I accept the title.

Quickie happy tweaks

Note: Each of the following at least slightly unsettles a classically balanced drink, but provides a different profile.

  • Use a flavor-rich American small-batch gin. My favorite of this type, D.C.’s Green Hat, can stand up to the other two ingredients.
    • Some people make this with Hendrick’s gin. For me, its subtle, eccentric [cucumber!], soft notes are completely wasted here. But Hendricks’ own “Unusual Negroni” recipe splits the Campari with Aperol [see below]. I haven’t tried this. Who knows?
  • Try Carpano Antica vermouth. Dark, herbal, a bit dense. Adds big body to the drink. Expensive, sadly.
    • Feeling frisky? Go way off script and do equal parts gin and Punt e Mes, a dark, bitter, brown vermouth that acts as both the sweet and the bitter in one swoop. Some try 3 equal parts and replace the sweet vermouth with Punt e Mes. But that slides the drink toward a bitterness I can’t abide.  Add a bit of regular sweet vermouth as needed.
  • Campari too bitter for you? Swap in Aperol, a sweeter apertif, with less of that woolen tongue thing you get with a potent bitter.
    • Aperol edges the drink’s color from ruby toward orange.
    • Aperol also has lower alcohol by volume [11%], yielding an in-the-glass ABV of around 30.
  • Dial down the buzz even more: Cut the gin, top with soda. This devolves the drink into an “Americano.”
    • Frisky fact: The Americano was the first drink ordered by Bond, James Bond in Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel, Casino Royale.
  • A more elegant look: Stir and serve up, in a coupe.

Impress your happy hour friends with these fun facts

The widely circulated story is that the Italian Count Negroni ordered the first one in Florence in 1919. A boozehound, he asked for gin to be added to his Americano. The rest is history.

Or myth. Most cocktail Creation Stories carry a strong whiff of bullshit at the nose. For what it’s worth, here is a rollicking takedown of the story, from a culinary perspective, by Food Republic.

Freaky fact-ish thing: Whether he invented the Negroni or not, the good Count developed a preference for strong liquor when he was an American rodeo clown. That is what at the Washington Post we used to call a story “too good to check.”

Author: Craig Stoltz

Cocktail enthusiast with no professional standing, former Time.com Top 25 blogger, and ex-Washington Post editor. I live in Bethesda, Maryland.

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