A cook's cocktail: "Negronis for my friends"

Last week, I went to Agata & Valentina's restaurant on the Upper East Side with some co-workers. They had a fancy, long list of wines. The bartender was great about letting us try a few sips of a couple wines, but nothing seemed right. Then I reached over for the cocktail menu. The negroni immediately called out to me: a blend equal parts Campari, vermouth and gin.

When I asked the bartender for a negroni, he immediately asked, "Have you had one before?"

"Yes," I urgently replied. I couldn't wait to get my hands on that drink, but my reply was a little bit of a fib. I'd never had a Negroni before, but Campari is a favorite of mine and in my mind, I was already tasting this cool, crisp mix of herbal and rounded fruit flavors.

"Something I like that you probably won't" is how Sushiesque describes the negroni. The flavor of Campari -- and all of "those sort of oddly flavored fortified wine/booze thingies" as fellow herby aperitif lover Ann from A Chicken in Every Grannycart wisely calls them -- can be confusing to the tongue at first. We Americanos are not used to these deep herbal flavors.

I think the Negroni is the a cocktail a cook can appreciate best: full of flavor, bracing but balanced, both juicy and strong. The gin gives an alcoholic bite and rounds out some of the bitterness of the Campari; while Campari provides fruit flavors and a rich red color; though some vermouths are clear, the vermouth my bartender used turned the Campari's red to my cocktail's mahogany sun-brewed iced-tea color and sends some sweetness to relax the Campari.

I've been known to compare drinking gin and tonics, one of R*'s favorite drinks, to "licking the stump of the Christmas tree" while R* says that my Campari and sodas "taste like medicine." Yet in this balanced blend, I begin to appreciate the flavor of gin. I can't wait to make R* one and see if he likes Negronis too.

Sushiesque also provides wallet cards with the negroni recipe on them and some excellent comments which inspired my title for this post.

My negroni was served in a martini glass. Turns out, negronis and other Campari aperitifs are usually served in a rocks glass on ice. I'll try them that way when I make them at home.


Blogger Sam said...

oh my I Love anything campari.
negroni, americano, with soda. I think I might have to go and buy a bottle now.

2:35 PM  
Anonymous ann said...

the lovely ximena over at lobstersquad introduced me to a new way of drinking G&Ts (like you, i never "got" them before)

add a few drops of bitters, and it just eases the whole drink into a more fully balanced, easy sippin', slightly carribean thing of beauty.

9:35 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

Sam, did you buy your Campari yet? I want to try it in a sorbet!

Ann, what kind of bitters do you use?

4:52 PM  
Anonymous guido said...

Campari sorbet sounds evil, but LOVE that bitter Campari flavor, and negronis. Stone Park makes a good one btw.

a variation, when you want something . . . less ginny is
negroni sbagliato, or “broken negroni.”
Sub prosecco for the gin, 1-1-1, or 2-1-1 if you want a much milder drink.

And good luck on the AT Kitchen gig - that brought me to your site.

11:18 PM  

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