Friday, May 7, 2010

Frontier Mixology, vol. 4: The Bitter Tale of Count Negroni's Trip To America

(Come for the drinks, Stay for the music)

The cocktail is essentially an American creation, and, along with jazz and the KFC Double Down sandwich, one of our country's great contributions to world civilization. On the other hand, Americans have long been hostile to noble titles, which are not permitted any official recognition under the Constitution, and which were almost the subject of an unratified "Thirteenth Amendment." Indeed, with the exception of a select few, e.g. the houses of von Count and Chocula, Americans don't take kindly to creepy European lesser nobility. Resolving these two trends in American history, however, is the Negroni.

Named for a Florentine aristocrat, Count Camillo Negroni (sadly not the Count Negroni who led the charge in the Battle of Reichshoffen during the Franco-Prussian War) the drink perfectly combines bitter, spicy, and citrus flavors. Thus, a proper Negroni:

1 oz. sweet vermouth
1 oz. Campari
1 oz. gin

Add all the ingredients to an old-fashioned glass filled with ice; stir together; and garnish with orange peel if desired.  I've seen Negroni's served straight up, but I like mine on the rocks because when served straight up the texture of the drink just isn't what it should be. If it's a hot afternoon, however, I don't mind a "long" Negroni, i.e. in a highball glass with a few ounces of soda water on top.

Now, the Negroni is not for everyone: modern tastes tending to run toward to the sweet and the sour and away from bitter, which is, after all, a defensive sense evolved to keep us from ingesting poison. When I first tried Campari and soda as a teenager, I thought it was disgusting -- a cross between cough syrup and liquid red Jell-O. But now I know better: the Italians, they get bitter, and have a long tradition of amari, or potable bitters. The more obscure of these have been all the rage among craft bartenders, but the most famous of the bunch is Campari, the star player of the Negroni. I urge you to give this drink a try: for a haemophiliac per Hapsburg, the Italian count certainly got this one right.  We can only hope it makes up for the loss of his feudal lands.

Drink up,

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