A Strong and Romantic Drink
An essay about my favorite cocktail: the Negroni.
The first time I met the Negroni was at a fresh, neon-lit college bar. I asked the bartender for their strongest drink. “We have a drink made entirely of alcohol,” she said. Without knowing what it was, I ordered it. It was ridiculously cheap for such an elegant drink. Every time I returned to that bar, I ordered it. Every time a friend would ask for a drink suggestion, I suggested it. Three Negronis in, I’d be tipsy — by the fifth, I’d have teleported elsewhere. It was only later on that I learned how to celebrate its nuanced flavors.
The Negroni is a bittersweet Italian cocktail made with equal parts gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari. It is usually garnished with an orange peel. Anthony Bourdain once called it a “satanic delicious hell-broth”. Stanley Tucci showed us how to mix it with finesse, even though his was a different recipe. Also, the Negroni is usually stirred, not shaken. Nevertheless, Tucci’s version doesn’t bother me too much because this cocktail has too many variations. Replace the gin with tequila, bourbon, or rum. Or, as Tucci suggested, vodka. I haven’t tried that yet. You could also replace the sweet vermouth with a dry one. You might also consider replacing the Campari with a different bitter botanical liqueur. It has an entire family, but the classic one is supreme. It is a strong and romantic drink.
The Negroni supposedly got its name from some count named Negroni, who thought that the Americano (vermouth, Campari, and soda water) was too weak. So, they replaced the water with gin. I find that this drink pairs well with spaghetti Bolognese or a rich, medium rare steak. It was to me an intellectual drink, best sipped while brooding over rain and jazz. It was only when someone described it as a summer cocktail that I practiced drinking it during the day. It became a bright, friendly drink — the perfect companion during the dreary pandemic year.
The Negroni is, if I’m counting it correctly, two standard drinks. (The healthy weekly limit is 15 standard drinks, and no more than five in a day.) It is also, apparently, around 200 calories. This week, 13–19 September 2021, is Negroni Week. It is yearly celebration of this cocktail, and a way to raise funds for various charities. I might join the celebration and contribute in my own way. Let me enjoy its timeless charm.