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In 1919, when Count Camillo Negroni asked the barman of Florence’s Caffè Giacosa to top up his regular Campari and vermouth with gin, a cocktail that came to bear the nobleman’s name was born.
And now, after decades of popularity, the drink is swiftly nearing its centenary.
But how best can you bring a taste of sophisticated, interwar Italy to the 21st century: What makes the perfect Negroni?
In a word – simplicity. The perfect Negroni chiefly relies on mixing rather than measures, with uncomplicated and equal parts gin, Campari and sweet vermouth forming the body of this cocktail.
Start by filling a stainless steel shaker with large cubes of ice, and placing an even larger, solid block of ice into a rocks glass. Next, add your spirits – one measure of each.
Begin with your gin. To grapple with the strong flavour of Campari, we’d recommend a spirit strong in both alcohol content and flavour. A naval-strength gin will work well in this regard, something juniper-forward with light citrusy flavours and a little floral sweetness.
Your vermouth should follow your gin into the shaker, and choose wisely. You want a sweet, red vermouth – and preferably something spiced. If you can get notes of orange peel, bitter dried fruit and cloves into the cocktail now, it will add a depth to the flavour ignited by the garnish later on.
Finally, add your Campari. Stir for 20 seconds with a long bar spoon and strain into your rocks glass over your block of ice.
For a garnish, we’d suggest a flamed orange twist. Cut a thick ‘coin’ of unwaxed orange peel with a sharp paring knife and light a match. Hold the peel orange side down around two inches above the flame for a couple of seconds, and then bend it in half. Rub this around the rim of the glass and drop into the glass.
Stir briefly, and then sip what should be the most seductively scarlet and irresistibly bitter cocktail you’ve ever mixed.
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