A Negroni is the bacon of cocktails

Negroni...kind of like bacon
  • Negroni...kind of like bacon

There is a rule in my house: if I ever make a Negroni for myself and Victoria is home, I have to make one for her, too. Every time. This rule was put in place more than two years ago, and never once has it been broken, never turned down, never exceptioned. There is only one other such mandate between us, in the case of bacon. That’s the Negroni. It’s the bacon of cocktails. Like bacon, (1) it is always great, and (2) I’m never not in the mood for it.

So, first things first — what is a Negroni? I’m not going to spend too much time on the history, but briefly: from the moment Campari was invented in 1860, it’s had a heedless love for sweet vermouth. Somewhere along the line, some genius (perhaps Gaspare Campari himself) united them with a little soda water and created the Americano, still the greatest pre-meal cocktail ever made. And the story goes that in 1919, Count Camillo Negroni walked into the Caffe Casoni in Florence and ordered an Americano with gin instead of soda water. He took one sip, lightning struck in the same spot three times, Jesus appeared on a biscotti, and the Negroni cocktail was born.

The Negroni

  • 1 oz gin
  • 1 oz Campari
  • 1 oz sweet vermouth
  • Stir and serve either on ice or up. Garnish with an orange slice or peel.

Almost no one specifies types of gin or vermouth, and in a way, it’s not vital — one of the charms of the Negroni is its near invincibility. Use any gin or sweet vermouth you like and it’s going to taste great. Substitute Campari with any of its competitors and it’s going to taste great. Understir it, overstir it, add orange bitters, screw up the measurements, carbonate it, age it in barrels, do whatever you want to it, and it’ll still be great. It’s great for men or women, first dates or business meetings, after dinner, before dinner, before breakfast, on the train, in outer space, anywhere, always, forever. It’s bitter, it’s sweet, it’s perfect. It is one of the handful of mixed drinks that enjoys universal respect in this industry.

I get it: no one looks for the best Negroni because saying “best Negroni” is a little like saying “best orgasm” — yeah, there are shades of difference there, some better than others, but even a terrible one is still better than almost everything else in the world. But. If you could have the best one every time, wouldn’t you?

And so, our question: what’s best? What gin, what vermouth, what combination? These are my guiding principles:

(1) Campari. Bartenders are a tinkery bunch, which is mostly a good thing, but here, we’re sticking with Campari. Yes, a Cynar/Aperol/Cappelletti/etc Negroni is a fine drink, but a true Negroni has to be made with Campari.

(2) Sweet Vermouth. Not dry vermouth, not bianco vermouth, not barolo chinato (which is like double-dutch heaven), but sweet vermouth. The red kind. Because that’s what’s in it.

(3) Gin. It’s made with gin. For the love of God. Not mezcal, not aquavit, not genever, not barrel-aged gin. Gin.

(4) Equal Parts. A Negroni is equal parts Gin, Sweet Vermouth, and Campari. Yes, it comes with a bit of sweetness. Deal with it. The sweetness is part of the charm. There’s no adding more gin. That’s blasphemy, and it also doesn’t taste as good.

Procedures

Identical glasses, identical large (2˝ x 2˝) ice, stirred the same amount of times, tasted double blind by both Victoria and me. As double blind as possible, anyway. Punt e Mes is recognizably darker than the others, but it tastes so different, it’s not like we wouldn’t have known anyway.

Competitors

I chose gins and vermouths that are fairly standard. Yes, obviously I’m only tasting five of each, and yes, I might be missing out on some other brand that makes the Negroni of my dreams.

GIN: Beefeater, Tanqueray, Plymouth Navy Strength, Hendrick’s, and Aviation.

VERMOUTH: Carpano Antica, Punt e Mes, Dolin Rouge, Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, and Martini and Rossi

Check back next week for the results!

[Post edited for length]

Blog: Drinks and Drinking | Post Title: What’s the best gin and vermouth for a Negroni? - Part I | Post Date: August 4, 2014

Author: Jason O’Bryan | From: Normal Heights | Blogging since: 2012

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