As the negroni renaissance swells for yet another summer, one can’t help but wonder how much of its latter-day success is down to its colour. That dark red — just a pantone or two deeper than an Aperol Spritz, for example, and just as coolly enticing as a pink magnum of shimmering Whispering Angel — is photogenic and eye-popping in a way that other drinks simply aren’t.
Its harsh contrast with the blues of Positano and Santorini — or the canvas of a Napolese summer suit, perhaps — makes it ideal fodder for a new generation of worldly Instagrammers and their followers. I don’t mean that the drink is over, of course. But it does seem that it may now be edging dangerously close to ‘premium basic’ territory — an aesthetic that includes, but is not limited to: Matisse cut outs; New Yorker tote bags; oysters for the sake of oysters; and thinking it’s interesting to like Fleabag.
Which is all to say that other colour combinations and flavour profiles of this noble drink are worth exploring. The white port negroni down at Maison François in St James’s is a brilliant jumping off point. Founder Frank O’Neill and his team have always had an exacting eye for detail, for colours, for nods and references and suggestions.
The cathedral-high ceilings of Maison François — softened by draped white curtains, terracotta arches and rich brown woods — recall architect Ricardo Bofill’s La Fabrica factory conversion from 1973. The waiters all sport relaxed, French workman- inspired navy suits from Drake’s, and their facemasks are blue and white bandanas. The menu, of course, is always brilliant — wholesome and hearty but pleasantly surprising.
And so it only follows that the house negroni should play the same games. Subtler, fresher, lighter, softer, brighter, and more approachable than its deep red older brother, it has less pose and more poise. As Miguel, the head barman, puts it: “It’s a beautiful spring version — an easy introduction to the world of bitter cocktails. It’s very fresh and slightly more easy drinking — and it’s wonderful.”
How to make The Maison François White Port Negroni
- 35ml No 5 white port
- 25ml Beefeater London dry gin
- 25ml Italicus
- Stir together all ingredients over ice
- Decant into an ice-filled glass
- Garnish with lemon zest
Want more recipes? Here’s how to make Hugh Jackman’s favourite dessert…
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