Nothing says summer sunset like a chilled, sophisticated and delicious Negroni cocktail. It's got a refreshing bitter bite, a citrus sparkle from fresh orange, and a heady blend of aromatics from the gin and sweet vermouth that never fails to refresh before dinner.
The Negroni is built on a platform of three complex flavor families, one of which is bitterness contributed by Campari. I'm a big fan of bitter liqueurs like Campari, Cinzano, and Cynar. Bitter liqueurs are described more fully in this post, but basically, they're alcohols steeped with enigmatic herbal blends. The recipes are often closely-held secrets (as it is for Campari) and bitters were often originally developed for medicinal purposes or digestive aids.
This classic gin cocktail is bursting with infused herbal flavors. Comprising gin, Campari and red vermouth (all infused alcohols, though sweet–or red–vermouth is infused wine), the Negroni's bursting with resinous juniper berry, caraway, and all of the mysterious herbs secreted into the proprietary gin, Campari and vermouth recipes.
Gin comes in several styles, but because the Negroni contains so many other herbal notes, I like to keep the gin classic and simple. It's not the starring ingredient the way it would be in a martini, so using a top quality, very distinct gin like Junipero, Lot 209 or Hendricks would be like using extra virgin olive oil for frying. If you're loaded with cash, go ahead and indulge, but I think you can go with a solid standby like Bombay Saphire. If you want to try this but can't stand gin, you can subsitute for vodka.
Which Red Vermouth?
When it comes to red vermouth, everyone thinks about that green bottle with the old school label. Of course, I'm referring to Martini & Rossi. But I think this brand is the weakest link. The secret to a superb Negroni is to switch up the sweet vermouth for Punt E Mes (pictured above). Punt E Mes is chocately and syrupy with a dense mouthfeel and dark, rich flavor and color. Unlike Martini & Rossi, you can't see through Punt E Mes when you hold it up to the light. It's about $20, and you can find it in specialty wine shops or online.
The Negroni Recipe
1.5 oz Gin
1.5 oz Vermouth
1.5 oz Punt E Mes
Shake over cracked ice and serve in a chilled tumbler over more cracked ice with an orange wheel as garnish.