If we’re getting to know each other, it’s worth noting I’ve got a bit of an obsession with Negronis. So much so that I actually travelled to Florence, Italy and visited the cafe where the classic cocktail was created. Many good Negronis have been enjoyed all around the world. In all my travels I have to say I finally came across the perfect Negroni at Bar Boulud in New York.
One random night I staked a claim to a stool at one end of Bar Boulud’s bar. “What’ll ya have?” asked the finely dressed well groomed bartender. I felt like Jack Kerouac out on the road in an unexpectedly fine establishment talking to a barkeep who had a perfectly manicured beard and tailored mustache. He looked like a guy who knew more than your average mixologist and ate good meals at home. So, I asked him to make my favorite drink just to see what he was made of.
Luckily, I was sitting down for it for when that nectar of the juniper berry gods hit my lips. Jackpot! This guys did know what he was doing. At that moment I wish all my closest friends who liked Campari like I did were sitting next to me so we could all exclaim, “halleluiah!” and clink glasses together.
Anyone can make a good Negroni. It’s not hard to combine equal amounts of gin, sweet vermouth and Campari and add an orange peel garnish.
An addition of a half measure of Lillet Blanc changes the game entirely.
For the uninitiated, Lillet Blanc is a French wine-based aperitif made from Semillon and macerated liqueurs, such as peels of sweet oranges. By adding a half measure to the Negroni before mixing adds a whole new dimension, and it takes the edges off the bitterness from Campari. First time Negroni drinkers often make a pucker face when they try the cocktail for the first time. They usually aren’t ready for the intensity of Campari flavor.
A touch of Lillet Blanc rounds it out on the palate and gives a chefs kiss of sweetness to the otherwise sharp angles of the classic version. If one were a Negroni lover and wanted to introduce a friend (read: get their friend to love Negronis as much as they did), one would want to use this recipe:
- 1 oz. quality Gin
- 1 oz. Campari
- 1 oz. Carpano Antica Vermouth
- 1/2 oz. Lillet Blanc
- orange peel garnish
The method in which the ingredients are mixed together is of note. In a very un-Bond like approach, Negronis like to be stirred, not shaken.
Combine ingredients (except orange peel) into a cocktail mixing glass and add a handful of ice cube. Use the long twisted spoon to stir the cocktail for about a minute.
According to the mixologists at Whisper Sisters in Sonoma, California Negroni’s should not be shaken. Stirring gently for a minute allows just enough ice to melt, which releases a bit of water into the cocktail. That’s a step mixologists will tell you is necessary for a wide swath of cocktails. A touch of water can smooth things out a bit.
Fill a lowball cocktail glass with ice and pour your delicious perfect Negroni into the glass. Garnish with the orange peel and enjoy!