A classic aperitif, this cocktail is one which you would be able to get in essentially any bar. Equal parts of gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth make this drink a bitter, and an acquired taste, but still quite a good one.
Created at the bar of Hotel Baglioni, this cocktail was the result of Count Camillo Negroni’s desires to “improve the Americano” (DeGroff 94). The Americano was given a splash of gin, and so in 1925 in Florence the idea rapidly came on, being known as an Americano in the Count Negroni fashion, eventually being known as just the Negroni (Ibid). And as such, the recipe eventually became an equal parts one, not just with a dash of gin, but a whole bunch of gin. This is the classic ratio of ingredients, but now a days, at least in the states, a bartender will reduce the amount of Campari and sweet vermouth since those flavors are not things most people are acquainted (Ibid). But to truly appreciate the cocktail, it should be in all of its’ tripartite glory.
This cocktail, while traditionally made as an equal parts cocktail, sometimes will be reduced to two to one to one in order to appeal to the palate of more drinks (Jackson 197). According to Jackson, the drink is a long drink, which would make sense, since it is quite often served on the rocks; however, this is dependent on whether or not the drink is served over ice. If the drink is not served over ice, and rather served up, which can occasionally happen, and is increasingly more popular, the drink would become a short drink, since there no longer are any measures that continue to keep the drink cold as you nurse the cocktail.
While I have talked about long and short drinks many times before, a general rule of a thumb is that a long drink would be a drink on ice, in which case, it is expected to keep chilled longer, and a short drink is a drink served without ice, where it usually is of a lower volume and returns to room temperature quicker. This is why volume is so important: most people savor their drinks, and while a large drink may sometimes “seem” like a better deal, quite often the drink will taste shoddy in comparison to a smaller one, which is consumed within a quicker time frame. If you were to serve a large volume drink up, I would suggest to try Jamie Boudreau’s method of Martini service, which includes a cocktail decanter to chill the remaining portion of the cocktail (Boudreau).
Campari is an bitter aperitif, which is constructed from a wide variety of herbs, fruit, and aromatics. The red hue was originally from carminium, which is from the bodies of South American insects known as the carmine cochineal (DeGroff 145). Quite often served with soda water, the liqueur is sold prepackaged as a mixture of Campari and soda water in single serving bottles (Ibid). Historically, Campari is the product of Gaspare Campari, a mid nineteenth century liqueur producer who created his shop at Cafe Camparino in Milan, as a licoriste, or a artisan-shopkeeper-bartender-pharmacist, whose functioned like a scientist and chef, and created the formulas for cordials (Ibid). Like Chartreuse, which features only two monks who know the ingredients and recipe for the liqueur Chartreuse, Campari is proprietary and has a similar situation. Currently, each week the president, technical director, and eight other employees, who know only one piece of the Campari formula, get together to produce the base concentrate for the aperitif, which will later be mixed with alcohol to form the liqueur; of these people, the only person who knows the full list of ingredients is the president of the company (Ibid).
I will say this: Campari is an acquired taste. It took me some time, and just slow amounts of mixing to get used to drinking this liqueur. While it is bitter, it is not the bitters that bother me. As shown with Don’s Little Bitter, bitters cocktails can taste amazingly good, provided that the flavors in them blend and mesh well. In the instance of this, Campari suffers from the obscure but yet familiar flavors that come into the aperitif; the flavors are foreign and strange, and hard to place. Yet the aggressive liqueur is still a classic, and something which many people around the world enjoy regularly.
As such the drink is a wonderful aperitif. It really encourages the appetite and gets the hunger to arise in the individual who quaffed the drink. Whenever you have an aperitif, you usually have small bites or appetizers to go with the drink, and to pair with the flavors in the drink. In the case of this, DeGroff recommends canapés for the Negroni. A canapé, meaning couch in Spanish, is a small decorative food that is eaten in one bite, served when appetizers are served, and composed of a bread or base, a spread of compound butter, a main item such as a pate, and a garnish. You could pull out many flavors, but the bitter, and wide array of herbal components of the Campari, vermouth, and gin suggests that nearly anything will work; the sky is the limit when pairing with this drink. Obviously, don’t go with fruit based things, since you would be hard pressed to pull out similar flavors, but most anything herbal or rich will work wonderfully with this.
1 part Gin
1 part Campari
1 part Sweet Vermouth
If building the cocktail, pour equal parts over ice in a rocks glass, top with ice, and stir. If serving up, combine ingredients in mixing tin, stir until well diluted, and strain up.
Boudreau, Jamie. Raising the Bar with Jamie Boudreau. “Martini Service.” Small Screen Network. http://www.smallscreennetwork.com/video/300/ssn_raising_the_bar_martini_service_640x360/(accessed April 25, 2010).
DeGroff, Dale. 2008. The Essential Cocktail: The Art of Mixing Perfect Drinks. New York: Clarkson Potter/Publishers.
Jackson, Michael. 1995. Michael Jackson’s Bar and Cocktail Companion: The Connoisseur’s Handbook. Originally published 1979. Philadelphia: Running Press.