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Saturday, March 10, 2012

NEGRONI: the definitive post

For three months, I subjected my wife, visitors, even my in-laws and parents to tasting permutations of the Negroni. I tried 18 variations based on different inputs and differing ratios. Other publications beat me to this, but none have been as thorough.

After all the trial and error, here are the three important facts you need to know.
  1. The negroni is bitter. I think pleasantly bitter, but bitter. There's no way around that. Unless you like an occasional bitter beverage, don't order a Negroni.
  2. Spend money on vermouth, not on gin.
  3. Stir a lot. It dilutes the drink a bit and makes sure you have an evenly mixed drink. I noticed the inputs' viscosity (and density presumably) are very different, so stirring is essential.
A negroni is gin, vermouth, and Campari. I liked adding an orange twist but it's not necessary. Classically, this drink is made in equal parts. That makes the drink really easy to prepare. And to me, it makes a poor drink. Why? To me, it's too much gin. Some bartenders go more extreme. Jim Meehan, of PDT fame, uses 8 parts gin to 3 parts vermouth and 3 parts Campari. To me, it's too boozy.

My recipe goes in the opposing direction and it is delightful (and bitter).

  • 2 parts gin
  • 2 parts Campari
  • 3 parts vermouth
I had strong preferences in gin and vermouth.
  • Vermouth -Regrettably, I used Dolin for many of my tests. It's terrible. Never buy Dolin. At a few bars, I asked to try a few straight. I preferred Cocchi di Torino. It's smooth, woodsy, and perfumed with herbs.
  • Gin - I tried Hendricks, Beefeater, Brooklyn Gin, Breuckelen Gin, and Greenalls. Aside from excluding Hendricks (weird vegetal taste with the other ingredients), the others were relatively similar. I had to really concentrate to find differences. If you have gin on hand, use it to start making negronis. If you are going to purchase gin, I'd buy Greenalls. It's very satisfying and affordable.
Technique? There isn't much technique to it. I filled a pint glass with ice, added the ingredients and stirred. I stirred 20 times in each direction. That sounds like a lot, but it's not. After stirring, strain over fresh ice and enjoy with some orange peel.

Hopefully this helps you start making negronis.