Culture Education: The Negroni

Culture Education: The Negroni

This read will be a brief adventure into the current cultural world of cocktails; Specifically, a cocktail that has now existed for exactly a century this year (according to the facts we have). While you may have heard of this brilliantly balanced aperitif, the majority of the U.S. has refused to acknowledge it, despite it being in the top 3 most popular cocktails in the world over the last 3 years. Time and time again, I find myself craving this easily made drink, only to find that the airport bartender has not heard of it. At this point,  you're surely already groaning, "So you're one of those people! A hipster looking for a unique drink and expecting that everyone has heard of it." No, I'm really not! Did you just read the above where I quoted that it is factually one of the most popular drinks in the world!? You don't need to know this drink because it is popular or because I like it, or because it's been around a long time... You need to know this drink because you have been missing out! After trying it, it will surely become a staple in your house and at your local bar like it has mine.

If you haven't heard of the Negroni yet, it's not necessarily your fault. It borders on the acquired-taste list, and the U.S. doesn't always spend much time on the aperitif section of the menu. Whether you're already on board to go out and try one for yourself, or if you're still on the fence, here you can find what it's made of, why it's so popular, and even a brief history on the drink.  So let's dive it!

The Negroni: History

The most widely known version of the history of this drink starts in Florence, Italy at a bar called Caffe Casoni in 1919. Camillo Negroni was a Count in Florence at the time, who asked his bartender to make his drink stronger by substituting the soda water in his Americano with gin. The bartender complied, and added an orange twist instead of the traditional lemon peel in the drink. They both found that this arrangement was a more enjoyable and intoxicating beverage than what they have previously been enjoying, and immediately the drink became a success.

In the same year that this drink began to take off, the Negroni family realized the potential monetary value that could be attained, and  started their own distillery, selling ready-made Negronis, starting to sell mainly with Caffe Casoni (This distillery still exists today, but under another name). Count Camillo Negroni was also a world traveler, and spread the word of his new drink wherever he went. People that he encountered heard  talked of the famous Negroni drink, and wanted to visit it's birthplace at Caffe Casoni, which further helped boost the drink  and this bar into noteworthy history. 

The Negroni: The Recipe

1 part Campari

1 part Sweet Vermouth
1 part Gin
1 orange peel

Stir together in ice, Campari, sweet vermouth, and gin. Strain into a rocks glass and garnish with orange peel.

The reason that this drink is continuing to break the popularity charts is that it meets all of the criteria you could possibly want from an aperitif: both sweet and bitter, strong and smooth. It is perfectly balanced and cleanses the palate for your next bite or meal. The bright red color can be off-putting and lead you to believe that it will be far fruitier or more sweet than you might typically think. Because of this, when taking a sip, first time tasters are often thrown off by the bitter bite that follows. The balance created by these 2 extremes leads this concoction to be incredibly drinkable, and is moving quickly from aperitif to the general cocktail section on the menu where it can be ordered before, with, or after a meal; or just at any general time.

Final Notes

I wouldn't expect every person to enjoy this drink the first time that they try it. You might - You might not. To be honest, the first time I tried it, it was recommended by a reliable friend who is also a culinary expert. I was immediately startled by the fact that I didn't care for it. For some unknown reason, later on in the week that followed I found myself craving another taste. Very strange! When I mixed one myself and gave it a second try, I knew immediately that this was going to be a new staple for me. Since then, I have enjoyed this as an early evening cocktail before dinner on for too many occasions!

We're seeing the Negroni show up all over the place within actual cocktail communities with many new varieties and alternatives. The drink is so simple to make that many experienced bartenders dismiss its simplicity and work towards adding complexities and alternatives such as  hickory smoked negronis, aged negronis, or even changing out the liquors to make completely different drinks (exchange sweet vermouth for lillet blanc = white negroni, exchange bourbon for gin = the Boulvardier, etc).

What do you have to lose? Take a chance and try this 3-year top of the charts popularity winning drink. I bet you will like it, and also start to wonder why everyone else you know hasn't heard of it yet?