The cocktail diaries: The Negroni

JASON CLARK
Last updated 13:57 22/02/2013
engroni
KENT BLECHYNDEN/Fairfax NZ
PRE-DINNER DRINK: The Negroni is the perfect aperitif, stimulating both appetite and palate.

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Bored with Old Fashioneds and ready for something new? Try a Negroni.

Never heard of them? Well, picture Florence Italy, circa 1920. Count Camilo Negroni is imbibing at his local bar, the Casoni, when he orders his favourite cocktail of the time the Americano (campari, sweet vermouth and soda) but asks for more kick. The local barkeep experiments by replacing the soda water with gin and garnishing with orange zest instead of lemon. The Negroni is born.

It's an incredibly simple, bitter, balanced, complex masterpiece that has become a true bartender favourite over recent years.

The Negroni is the perfect aperitif, stimulating both appetite and palate with its combination of bitter Campari with the strength and perfume of gin, both married neatly with the lushness of sweet vermouth.

Classic recipes call for equal parts, but bartenders tend to prefer dosing a little heavier with the gin these days.

Simply pour the liquors over ice, stir and garnish with an orange wedge, zest (flamed) and you're good to go. There's no need for strainers or fancy mixing glasses.

They can be served up in a Martini glass, but I find all the extra fuss unnecessary unless it's a bitterly cold night and you'd prefer the absence of ice.

The Americano as mentioned above is a fantastic lighter option for the afternoon drinker, or add a touch of effervescent zing by replacing the gin with prosecco (Italian sparkling wine) to create a Negroni Sbagliato.

Preference of gin certainly makes a difference, I prefer a bold full bodied gin such as Tanqueray Ten, or Westwinds Cutlass if I'm splashing out. Also, sweet vermouth varies hugely so find a brand you enjoy and keep it stored in the fridge to prevent oxidation. I'm a fan of Antico Rosso or Dubonnet.

THE NEGRONI

25ml Campari

20ml Sweet vermouth

30ml Gin (must be quality)

Pour over ice, stir and serve in a rocks glass. Garnish with flamed orange zest (this provides an amazing fresh aroma).

Negronis are also fantastic after dinner. The bitters help with digestion and the boozy kick will help to keep you awake. They are also very quick to rustle up, so you won't die of thirst while waiting like the guy next to you who just ordered four Old Fashioneds.

- Jason Clark is the bartender at Hummingbird Eatery and Bar.   

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