FYI: This is an archive of my Tonight's Negroni email newsletter.
The Denver Tour di Negroni (which I told you about a couple months ago) just had it's blowout finale with a party/competition (won by one of my favorite bar teams) and now Imbibe Magazine is taking a similar show nationwide with its Negroni Week. While both of these events celebrate the classic proportions and variety of possible ingredients (as have I in previous installments), there's also a lot of focus on Negroni variants or even "Negroni-inspired" cocktails. This is where participating establishments really get to stretch their wings and be inventive.
I get why that's a big driver. I'm super cool with that and even super excited about it.
What I can't get on board with is the increasingly common vernacular of "negroni" as a generic term to denote a class of cocktails.
I rolled my eyes so hard I nearly sprained my eye sockets when I read a #NegroniNight tweet that went something along the lines of "Our first Negroni of the night is The Handmaiden's Tale with something and something else." No, sir or madam, that is not a Negroni. That is a cocktail with ingredients that are reminiscent of those in a Negroni. It is perhaps inspired by the Negroni, but it is not, in fact, a Negroni.
This is what happened a while ago in steakhouses and the like, where at least half (if not all) of their cocktail offerings were printed on their so-called "Martini Menu". Most of the drinks on the list have nothing to do with the cocktail called Martini aside from being served in that most recognizable of glasses: an upside-down cone atop a tall stem. An Appletini is not a Martini. A Cosmopolitan is not a Martini. A Manhattan is not a GODDAMNED MARTINI! IT'S A COCKTAIL WITH IT'S OWN GODDAMNED CATEGORY!!!
Also, I know this is pedantic, but a Vodka Martini is just that. If I ask for a plain old "Martini, up with olives, please" I mean gin. Every time.
PROTIP: If you find yourself in one of these "Martini Menu" places (and they do still exist), just get a gin & tonic or pay the bucks for wine. At least, that is, if you have enough opinions about booze to be disappointed to see a guy in a uniform service vest shake the bejesus out of a Manhattan. If that doesn't bother you, keep on truckin'.
I just hope we don't start running into a "Negroni Menu" anywhere. A Boulevardier is not a Negroni. An Americano is not a Negroni. The wonderful cocktails invented by establishments that participate in programs like Negroni Week and Tour di Negroni are not Negronis.
A Negroni is one simple, beautiful thing: A combination of 1 part gin, 1 part sweet vermouth, and 1 part Campari.
Saw that coming didn't you?
I'm willing to bet a large portion of you have not tasted a classically proportioned Martini. By the 90s, if not well before, everybody viewed vermouth as a waste of space. Martinis progressively got more and more "dry". Flavoring more often came from olive brine in a "dirty" Martini than through the application of vermouth.
Probably because nobody at that time really knew what to think of vermouth. We all had a bottle that we kept around to wave near our shakers when we made martinis, but they weren't very good and they certainly didn't benefit from sitting around for years on end. Things have changed. There are very good dry vermouths out there that are really worth experiencing.
Here's the big shocker, though: Bitters! Who the heck every heard of putting bitters in a Martini! Well, it's true. And it's magic.
The following recipe for a "Classic 1950s Martini" can be found in the excellent Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails by Ted Haigh.
- 3oz Gin (Ted allows for vodka. Fine.)
- ½oz Dry vermouth (Vya, Dolin, Ransom, etc.)
- 1 dash Orange bitters
- Stir the gin and vermouth with ice "vigorously and long", as Haigh instructs.
- Pour into a coupe of cocktail glass.
- Add bitters.
- Garnish with a pimento-stuffed olive or lemon twist.
Cheers. Thanks, as always, for reading this. It weirds me out that you people are out there, but I dig it.