Our great friend Matthew Fort, prolific writer on the food, drink and heart beat of Italy, has kindly allowed us to share some of this thoughts and musings in this series of blogs. We hope you will enjoy them as much as we have.
What is wrong with the picture above? It looks like a Negroni. It should be a Negroni. But –
The classic Negroni has three ingredients – Campari, gin and red vermouth; or five if you count the orange peel and the ice; or six if you count the glass on top of them. It’s so simple that deviations of even a minimal kind can have a profound effect on the result.
So let’s see about this one. The glass is correct. A classic Old Fashioned tumbler, with a heavyweight base and thin, straight sides. No fancy ornamentation or cut glass malarkey.
And the actual cocktail mix is properly managed, 1:1:1. (You’ll have to take my word that it had that seductive mix of sweetness and bitterness and refreshment and alcoholic uplift and slightly oily viscosity).
But what about the ice? It should be a single large lump, not a jumble of smaller cubes that melt more rapidly, diluting the divine harmony of the mix. As it was, the last few mouthful were shadows of the flavours I enjoyed at the beginning of the glass.
And a slice of orange? A slice! I ask you? Orange peel, it’s got to be orange peel. A slice of orange is a crudity, and one from which you don’t get that exotic waft of citric oil so central to the effect of the whole cocktail,
Now, you can play around with gins if you want, although, as with the gin martini, the plainer the gin (eg Tanqueray 10 or The Botanist), the better in my view. Too many modern gins are so perfumed, I don’t know whether to drink them or dab them behind my ears.
And you can experiment with vermouths (these seem to be proliferating with the same vigour as gins). I’m not sure whether Fosco Sarselli, the barman who created the Negroni for Count Camillo Negroni in 1919 at what was then the Cafe Casoni in Florence, actually specified which vermouth, but it might well have been Cinzano Rosso. I, myself, am having an affair with Carpano Antica Formula, which has more weight to it.
But that’s the end of meddling, in my book.
Recently I’ve heard of an expresso Negroni, about which the less said the better. An abomination. Then there’s the Negroni made with ice shavings. No, no, no. A small number of cubes is just about tolerable, I suppose, but one large cube is best.
And then there’s Negroni Sbagliato, in which the gin is replaced by prosecco or some other fizz, and there are Negronis made with rosé vermouth, with Suze and/or Lillet , with mezcal and bitters, so-called Amber Negronis and all the manner of variations. My mother, who was very fond of a Negroni, would be turning in her grave.
Am I alone in finding modern habit of tinkering around with classic cocktails is pernicious? Heaven knows, it’s hard enough to find the original made properly before you start messing about. I mean, would you add an extra dome to St Paul’s, jazz up the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel or pop a bit of drum & bass into the Flying Dutchman? I think not. Classics are classics for a very good reason. Leave well alone.
NB. Since I posted this an hour or so ago, the omniscient and charming Brian St Pierre commented on Facebook ‘And this was going to be James Bond’s drink of choice, but Ian Fleming’s publisher nixed it, so he went for the martini.’ The Negroni was too sophisticated for 007.