Stanley Tucci is an Emmy Award-winning and Academy Award-nominated actor who, by most accounts, is said to be an awesome human being. We won’t dispute that, but we will take issue with his crafting of the classic Negroni, which shocked me and other cocktail enthusiasts with his shaken not stirred approach.
Perhaps Tucci was channeling his inner James Bond and the Vesper cocktail that the British super spy fancied shaken instead of stirred in a mixing glass with ice. But in every recipe of the Negroni, even with all of its innovative takes, I’ve never seen it shaken in all my years.
Before we get into learning how to make the Negroni, let us first review the history behind the aperitivo, or before-dinner drink from the good folks at Gin Foundry (this site is now defunct):
The most widely reported version of this drink’s origin is that it was invented at Caffe Casoni in Florence, Italy in 1919. Legend tells that Count Camillo Negroni asked his friend, bartender Forsco Scarselli, to strengthen his favourite cocktail – the Americano – by replacing the soda water with gin. Scarselli added an orange garnish, rather than the lemon you’d usually get with an Americano, and the drink took off. Before long, everyone was coming into the bar for a ‘Negroni.’
The ingredients I typically use for my version of the drink follow the original equal parts recipe, in this case, one ounce of each of the three components for the cocktail. The gin style is important, as it should be a London dry style. I keep bottles of Beefeater and Boodles on hand, and either would work. The London dry style puts an emphasis on the juniper flavor ahead of the other botanicals used to make gin.
But just as equally important as the gin is the vermouth, and I tend to go for Dolin Rouge because it isn’t syrupy sweet like other lower-quality brands. Lastly, the bitters component should never be compromised as it should always be Campari. The bright red liquid brings the cocktail visually to life while aiding the blend of flavors of gin and vermouth.
In Tucci’s version, he used an exceptionally high amount of gin and while he can enjoy his style of Negroni to his heart’s delight, it’s already a boozy drink at three liquid ounces. If you want the drink to be a touch drier, an additional quarter ounce of gin might work or if you want a more oversized cocktail, use a higher pour but keep the parts equal. That said, if you drink one Negroni, you probably won’t want another because of its bittersweet but refreshing profile.
Classic Negroni recipe:
- 1 oz London Dry Gin (does not have to be distilled in London)
- 1 oz Sweet Vermouth
- 1 oz Campari
Combine the spirits in an ice-filled mixing glass with room to stir without spilling. Stir in the glass for about 30 seconds or until well chilled. Pour the cocktail through the mixing glass strainer into a rocks glass filled with ice, or better, a large format ice cube or sphere. Express the oils of a one-inch orange peel over the drink and garnish with the peel if you choose.
Once done, it should look something like this…
The Negroni is best consumed slowly in order to experience the complexity of flavors ahead of a hearty meal. With the melting of the ice, the drink’s flavor will change but not drastically. There are several versions of the Negroni, such as the Unusual Negroni and the White Negroni that we’ll visit at a later date.
Until then, sip safely and surely.
UPDATE (Sept. 21. 2023 for Negroni Week):
This week (September 18-24) is Negroni Week and bars all across the nation are celebrating with fresh updates and new riffs of the classic cocktail. It is one of my personal favorites and truly refreshing even as temps are beginning to cool in some parts of the country. It isn’t an easy drink to spring onto someone who isn’t used to the Negroni’s bold flavors, but the complexity of the drink and how it just feels good to have one before a meal is a combination that’s hard to beat.
Because I had some Smith & Cross Overproof Jamaican Rum in the stash, I searched online to find out if Rum would be a good replacement spirit for the usual Gin. Much like the Boulevardier, the Kingston Negroni from Joaquín Simó sounded like something I needed to try. Like the original, the recipe calls for a 1:1:1 ratio and a liberal stir over ice with a twist. Check out the recipe, courtesy of Imbibe, here.
As we come to the close of this 2023’s Negroni Week, I should alert the readers that I failed miserably in not making any announcements about the celebration due to the fact I’m spinning far too many plates these days. This week alone, I made myself a Boulevardier, a riff of the Negroni using bourbon instead of gin, and a Mezcal Negroni, which sounds exactly as it reads. The Negroni isn’t for everyone but once you’ve learned to appreciate its bold flavors, I truly believe it’ll become a new favorite.
I always urge cocktail hobbyists and enthusiasts like myself to play with your combinations when it comes to vermouth. The idea is, if you have a vermouth you’re fond of, then it’ll be good in your glass. It’s your journey and taste buds, I’m just a helpful guide here.
Photos: Getty, D.L. Chandler
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