To finish off the concept of ‘Golden Ratios,’ we are going
to examine two more influential structures. One is a true classic perhaps more
popular today than ever, and the other is a contemporary classic, young in age
but old in sensibility and inspiration.
Beginning with the former in 1919, Florence, Italy, the
story goes that Count Negroni requested a stronger version of his favourite
cocktail - the Milano Torino (later known as the Americano - you can see a more
detailed discussion here: http://and1morefortheroad.blogspot.ca/2011/11/20th-century-italy-part-2-negroni.html).
This drink is a mixture of three elements - Torino vermouth (what we now
typically call simply “sweet”), Campari,
and soda water on the rocks with a lemon garnish. Swapping the soda for gin and
the lemon for orange created one of most enduring classics there is, aptly
named the “Negroni.” The beauty of the drink is that each ingredient - spirit,
vermouth, amaro - are present in equal parts and balance together perfectly. It
is the perfect aperitif: dry enough to stimulate the palate, not too sweet, not
too bitter, and not too strong. Variations came about quickly, showing in print
as early as 1927 from Harry McElhone’s American Bar in Paris. This most famous
twist, called the Boulevardier, swaps gin for bourbon, and in American fashion,
is served up rather than on ice. Swapping bourbon for rye and sweet vermouth
for dry gives us the Old Pal, and the list goes on. Given how many spirit,
fortified wine, and amaro options there are, the possibilities are numerous,
but being creative about the structure itself can allow you to create some
truly interesting and unique tasting cocktails.
The Negroni is defined not so much by looking at the
ingredients this way:
- 1 part spirit
- 1 part fortified wine
- 1 part amaro
but rather this way:
- 1 part dry
- 1 part sweet
- 1 part bitter
Below are some classic and contemporary examples. The newer
additions include the Negroni Sbagliato (meaning literally “mistaken” because
the bartender grabbed a bottle of sparkling wine instead of gin) from mid-20th
century Milan, the Hoighty Toighty from Amor y Amargo in New York, the Stenson (named after influential bartender Murray Stenson)
from Pourhouse in Vancouver, and The Black Rider, from yours truly.
Name Dry Sweet Bitter Additions
Negroni gin sweet vermouth Campari rocks, orange twist
Boulevardier bourbon sweet vermouth Campari orange
Old Pal* rye dry vermouth Campari
Negroni Sbagliato sparkling sweet
vermouth Campari orange twist
Hoighty Toighty genever sweet
vermouth Cynar orange twist
Stenson bourbon Calvados Averna Boker’s bitters
The Black Rider** mezcal brandy Cynar (¾)
* for the Old Pal, while the original recipes call for
Canadian rye whisky, be aware that due to lack of regulation, the majority of
Canadian whisky today contains no rye at all. This drink should be made with
American rye for good results.
** for The Black Rider, use a softer mezcal like Fidencio, and a
big, fruity brandy like Torres 5-Year Old.
Next time we’ll look at some applications of the Red Hook.
Read more from Cocktails.