I love the Negroni. It’s such an accurate mingling of flavors, a demonstration of how, with a little attention to balance, the world (or at least the drinking world) can come into alignment in a manner that has to make the universe applaud. Sure, I’m going overboard a bit with my fluffy language, but that’s what a really good drink drives us to, flights of poetic fancy usually reserved for singing the praises of nymphs–or at least of the hottie at the other end of the bar.
I love the Negroni so much that I made wife Natalie and pals Jeremy and Meg track down Café Giacosa in Florence, when we were visiting Italy, which is where the Negroni was thought to have been invented by a Florentine count, Camillo Negroni, and bartender Fosco Scarselli, who was bartending at the Bar Casoni, which became Café Giacosa (that sentence is much more confusing than the drink itself). The count wanted more kick in his Americano (which is Campari, sweet vermouth, and soda, and which, if you haven’t had one, is tasty in its own right when the sun’s heat is descending on your head like warm cotton) one day after a long night of dancing the Volta, and the Negroni was born. At least that’s the story. The Café Giacosa is now owned by Italian designer Roberto Cavalli, and packed with animal print stools and I suppose oodles of style (I think we weren’t up to the normal clientele, as we were a bit sweaty and rocking shorts and t-shirts), as well as super friendly bartenders–super friendly and super attractive bartenders. My guess is that they’re models between gigs, or wannabe models, or just modelesque drink slingers. They made dandy Negronis though, which, in the end, matters more than the history, even. Drinking them there, surrounded by the faux leopard prints, in the one of the world’s finest cities, was a perfect way to while away the afternoon.
The Negroni I’m having now is being consumed at night (though who knows when I’ll actually get this post posted), and in “up” format. Sometimes I enjoy my Negronis over the rocks (when it’s a little sweaty out and I want to have some ice for accompaniment; then it’s “Negroni on the rocks, ain’t no big surprise” as the song says), but the moon is out, and I’m wearing a tux and feeling classy, and having it up seemed the right way to accent the evening. I don’t always feel that a drink should be changeable like that (and I’m sure some will turn up their noses at my even suggesting it, and that’s okay, too, cause everyone has to make those choices. And, while we’re admitting things, I’m not really wearing a tux). But, somehow, the Negroni works both ways for me.
Much in the same way as both Diana Prince and Wonder Woman work for me–one is more outwardly heroic, but the secret identity is also important, and also a key role. See, I tend to think (as I’ve mentioned before somewhere) of the Negroni as the Wonder Woman of drinks (this taking drinks into the DC universe, and showing my boundless love for the Negroni in geek form), after the Martini’s Superman and the Manhattan’s Batman. This may be giving it outlandish props (again, disagree if you want–do it in the comments though, and let me know who you’d sub in instead). The Wonder Woman TV show theme song does have the line “dressed in satin tights, fighting for your rights,” and I see the Campari as the satin tights in this situation, which I guess makes the gin the rest of the costume, and that sweet vermouth the magic lasso and the bullet-deflecting bracelets (as without it, the drink would be too metallic? Seems to make sense). And, the Negroni has an even-keeled nature (like Wonder Woman), but is still somewhat a drink of the people (attached to the world, and not belong to the universe). But I’m going far afield. Make yourself one tonight, and you’ll soon have your own theories. Here’s the recipe I used:
1-1/2 ounces gin
1-1/2 ounces Campari
1-1/2 ounces sweet vermouth
Orange twist, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice cubes. Add everything. Shake well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with an orange twist.
A Variation: I heard about this from Pierre, a Florence bartender (who I met at the Hotel Casci). If you make a Negroni with Champagne or sparkling wine (you’d have to put it in after shaking and straining the Campari and vermouth, then top with the bubbly), it’s called a “Spagliato.” Which means “wrong.”