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.
- 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.”