It’s hard to think of a drink that was as iconic to the so-called Cocktail Renaissance—that surge in the late 2000s when bartenders were developing new craft drinks and re-discovering old ones—as the Negroni (though admittedly the Daiquiri is a serious contender, too). The drink became almost synonymous with the craft cocktail movement for its simplicity (three ingredients in equal parts), its iconic crimson hue and its compelling and bittersweet flavors. It grew so popular that Campari, the brand behind one of its key ingredients, even launched Negroni Week, a yearly international fundraiser that sees thousands of bars across the world featuring their own takes on the Negroni, with a portion fo the profits going to charities.
However, in Italy, it’s just a drink that has been enjoyed for over a century, without a lot of fanfare. Order one in a bar anywhere in Milan and you’ll receive a (often huge) glass of ice with all three ingredients quickly poured in, served, and garnished with an orange peel; no fuss, no theatrics and, almost always, no variations.
One of the core premises to the drink is that it’s served like it is in Milanese cafes: over a number of ice cubes. For many Negroni enthusiasts, that ice is the fourth ingredient and fundamental to the drink. Like a Mint Julep, the drink transforms as the ice slowly melts, expressing nuances and mellowing the drink’s normally acerbic and bracing properties. However, some bartenders prefer to serve it up, as it is in the Neighborhood Negroni from the famous bartender and author Tony Abou-Ganim.
It might seem like a subtle, insignificant change, however it has a noticeable impact on the flavor of the drink. Serving it up in a chilled glass allows the bartender to control the exact amount of dilution the drink gets, regardless of how long the drinker lets it sit. And while there is a strong visual appeal for the more traditional, Italian style of serving it on the rocks, serving it up means you get to use a lovely vessel like a coupe or Nick & Nora glass.
In his recipe, Abou-Ganim calls for Junipero gin, Martini and Rossi sweet vermouth and, of course, the obligatory Campari, each in equal part as befitting the Negroni’s golden ratio. A relatively high alcohol gin at 98.6 proof, Junipero is made in San Francisco, one of the capitals of the Cocktail Renaissance. Bold and very juniper forward, it makes for a potent and assertive Negroni, even when diluted over ice and served up.
- 1 ounce Junipero gin
- 1 ounce Campari
- 1 ounce Martini and Rossi sweet vermouth
- Garnish: orange wheel
Add all the ingredients to a mixing glass and fill with ice. Stir until chilled.
Strain the drink into a chilled cocktail or rocks glass.
Garnish with an orange wheel and serve.