How To Mix The Perfect Negroni
Photograph by Mr Niklas Hallen, courtesy of Balthazar
The negroni – punchier cousin of the Aperol spritz, infinitely more complex step-sibling of the Americano – is a true classic. It is short, strong, and compelling – often hailed as one of the three essential cocktails, alongside the Bloody Mary and the martini.
“In a nutshell,” says Mr Brian Silva, bar manager at Balthazar in Covent Garden, “the perfect negroni is a wonderful balance of bitterness and sweetness. For me, that’s it. Plus, it packs a nice kick.”
Origin stories, possibly apocryphal, credit a Count Negroni of Florence with lending his name to the drink in 1919, having developed a taste for strong spirits while working as a rodeo cowboy in the US (yes, you read that sentence correctly). What is certain is that the negroni is both a sublime cocktail and extremely simple to prepare – so there’s really no reason not to have it mastered. And, while it’s traditionally sipped in the warmer months, there’s absolutely no shame in honing your negroni-mixing powers over winter.
The cocktail is classically made with equal parts gin, Campari and vermouth, though Mr Silva (whose new book, Mixing In The Right Circles, offers no less than 11 negroni variants) is an advocate of tweaking the ratios slightly. “These days, for the modern palate, I go a little more gin heavy – 35ml gin, 25ml Campari and 15ml vermouth. I just lock down the vermouth a little bit – it can be a bit cloying. And gins are so good these days – these measures make it more balanced.”
However you prefer your negroni, precision is key. “Measuring is a big deal,” says Silva. “You see a lot of people making drinks with ‘a bit of this, a bit of that’, and everything ‘kind of equal’. That’s no good.”
When seeking out your spirit, steer clear of overproof gins, or anything too floral. “A classic London dry gin is best,” says Mr Silva, “because it doesn’t interfere with things. Original negronis were probably made with Gordon’s or Booth’s, but I use Tanqueray.”
Campari is the classic negroni’s defining characteristic, and shouldn’t be replaced or tampered with. “If you’ve just got gin and sweet vermouth, that’s a martinez,” cautions Mr Silva.
The vermouth should be sweet – Mr Silva is a strong advocate of Martini Rosso. “It’s probably the best all-round sweet vermouth, and it does what it’s intended to do,” he says. “Cinzano is good but a bit thin, and Punt e Mes is too bitter.”
There’s no need for a shaker – simply stir the ingredients gently in a rocks glass, and serve with good quality ice. “What you don’t want is small pieces of chipped ice,” says Mr Silva, “or you’ll dilute the drink. And don’t over stir either – just blend it.”
Finally, garnish with a wedge of orange – or, for a more modern variant, serve with a twist of orange peel, and add a squirt of citrus oil to the drink. Then sip, savour, and repeat.