Martini Quotes

"I'm not talking a cup of cheap gin splashed over an ice cube.

I'm talking satin, fire and ice; Fred Astaire in a glass; surgical cleanliness, insight.. comfort; redemption and absolution. I'm talking MARTINI.


Friday, January 30, 2015

The Negroni

Martini's Sweeter Cousin

     The Negroni cocktail seems to be somewhat of a long lost relative to the Martini.  It is both sweet up front, with a bitter kick on the finish.  For those of you unfamiliar with the concoction, it is equal parts gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari.  It is commonly served on the rocks in an Old Fashioned glass and garnished with an orange peel.  For a dramatic flare, one often uses a flamed orange peel as a garnish.  The effect is to render out the oils. Although I highly recommend this for the first Negroni of the evening, I am not altogether sure that it is a safe thing to do for any subsequent pour.  The combination of alcohol, fire, impaired senses and possibly judgment are a recipe for disaster.  As with the Martini, the cocktail is sufficient to stand on its own merits. There is a lot going on here to challenge the palate with a sweet fortified wine, a bitter liqueur, and a classic herbal spirit.  

     While the Martini is distinctly and completely American, the Negroni traces it's roots back to Italy.  The most widely reported account of it's origin is that it was invented in Florence, Italy in 1919, at Caffè Casoni, now called Caffè Cavalli.  I do not know why the cafe is named after horses- I will have to go to Florence and find out.  In any event, the local Count Camillo Negroni asked the bartender, Fosco Scarselli, to "strengthen" his favorite cocktail, the Americano.  He added gin rather than the normal soda water to the sweet vermouth and Campari. The bartender also added an orange garnish rather than the typical lemon garnish of the Americano to signify that it was a different drink. 

      As with the Martini, there is an alternative theory regarding the origin of the Negroni Cocktail. This theory attributes the invention to General Pascal Olivier de Negroni, who had the idea of this divine mixture (1/3 Gin, 1/3 Vermouth, 1/3 Campari).  This happened in Paris at the military officers' club of St. Augustine, on the eve of the Great War. "Your health before the grape shot!"

It reminds one of the origins of gin as "Dutch Courage" before charging into battle in the Thirty Years War.  As an aside, I truly enjoy the naming of wars with definitive end points, like the aforementioned war and the 100 years war.  Typically, today's conflicts are rather shifting, smoldering affairs.  The similarity to Orwell's 1984 is all too real.  Where is the enemy—or the end—in our “war on terror?”  One must drink another Negroni to reflect on such a thing.

A great quote about the drink came from Orson Welles while working in Rome in 1947, where he described a new drink called the Negroni, "The bitters are excellent for your liver, the gin is bad for you. They balance each other out."  I do take exception to the statement that the gin is bad for you.  As I have previously written, gin was a prescribed medicinal  and I ,at least, believe it still is today.

    Like its brethren, the Martini, we have gin and vermouth combined in the Negroni. However, whereas the Martini is purely dry, the Negroni is a complex presentation to the palate .  The herbaceous gin is there, but in this case, the vermouth is sweet with fortified aromatic flavors. With so much flavor, a subtle balanced gin will tend to get lost.  I make mine with Beefeater or Tangueray.   Maybe a navy strength gin would work well, but I have yet to find one locally.  What is distinctly different is the Campari.  This liqueur presents us with another layer of aroma and taste.  The bitterness of the Campari lends a nice balance to the sweet vermouth.  It imparts one with the want of something to deal with this finish, which is why it makes such a fine aperitif.  

Add the Negroni to the Martini family tree

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