Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Negroni

The start of a great meal is often the drink that warms up the taste buds. It is the aperitivo, or before-dinner drink, where the Italians excel above other drinks.

To Italians, the aperitivo is classically a drink that leans towards the bitter side, a taste that awakens the palate for what's to come. It is this taste which also helps with indigestion, where the Italians also excel with the amari spirit family, but that's for another post.

The most famous aperitivo spirit in Italy is Campari, a red-hued bittersweet liquor that derived its color originally from sub-tropical Latin American insects (check out Wikipedia if you don't believe me). Gaspare Campari's infused invention in 1860 was turned into a craze by his son, Davide, who first spread the concoction around northern Italy in the later 19th century and then branched out into the French Riviera at the turn of the century, where Campari gained the attention of the broader international literati who congregated in southern France at that time.

By 1915 when the Campari mixed with vermouth & soda had become a "thing", ie. the Mito*, or Americano** depending on your preferred history, there was an Italian count in Florence who thought the drink was not quite strong enough. So he told his usual bartender at Caffe' Casoni (today known as Caffe' Cavalli, interestingly restored by none other than famed Italian designer Roberto Cavalli) to give some extra "oomph" to his drink by replacing the soda water with gin.

Thus was born the Negroni.

For a proper Italian supper based on Tuscan dishes, I could think of no better aperitivo to start things off than the Negroni.

1 oz (or 30mL) of Gin [Bombay Sapphire was my choice]
1 oz (or 30mL) of Campari
1 oz (or 30mL) of sweet vermouth [Martini Rossi was my choice]

Note: you can further fortify by bumping up the gin to 1.5 oz and bumping down the Campari & sweet vermouth to 0.75 oz respectively, based on your taste and mood

- Add the ingredients in a mixing glass
- Crack some ice into the glass and add some more to fill the glass
- Stir vigorously for several seconds
- Strain into a cocktail glass
- Twist in an orange peel, squeezing some oil on top of the drink

Cheers or Cin cin!

*The drink's name Mito, supposedly comes from Milano and Torino - combining the tastes of Campari, that Mi-lanese spirit with sweet vermouth, most notably produced in TO-rino; although, it's entirely possible that the story is a typically Italian myth, which is what the word mito means in Italian

**Legend has it that the name of the Mito evolved into the Americano due to the thirst of the growing hordes of Americans who stormed the Italian countryside that devoured this drink. Perhaps another typically Italian myth?
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