This fall, when I was in Tuscany we began every evening with a negroni. In every café, in every city it seemed the appropriate thing to drink. Who am I to debunk tradition? For ten nights in a row I did my very best to taste a variety of renditions of this classic aperitivo as part of my culinary education. Let’s go with that story.
There are many recipes for a negronis, but the basic is equal parts gin, Campari and vermouth. No fancy artisan liquors, just the basics — Beefeater, Campari, Martini Rosso and orange slice. Heat, bitter, sweet, you’re after that essential balance. Call me crazy (I can’t hear you), but I think the equal part recipe is too sweet and viscous. It’s easier for me to debunk Italian tradition on American soil. The classic version seems to cover your mouth in a fluffy blanket of saccharine.
Like good cooking, cocktailing needs the right balance of flavors, too. This negroni variation calls for a bit more gin over the Campari and vermouth. Of course, I upped the garden fresh flavor. Since blood oranges are just coming into season, use them! They add great balance and lightness to the sweet because they’re slightly bitter and, the color of blood orange juice is holiday gorgeous.
Christmas Eve at our house is more like an open house as friends pop by in the late afternoon for a quick hello and hug. It’s one of my favorite days of the year for that very reason. I’ll make a pitcher of these to have on hand; it’s the perfect pre-dinner drink as people head off into the evening. Cheers!
Blood Orange Negroni
1 ounce gin
1⁄2 ounce Campari
1⁄2 ounce sweet vermouth
1 ounce blood orange juice or substitute 3/4 ounce regular freshly squeezed orange juice and 1⁄4 ounce lime juice
Blood orange segments (for garnish)
Fill a shaker with ice. Add all ingredients, except for garnish and shake for 7 counts. Pour into a double old-fashioned filled with ice and garnish with blood orange. Serve.
Negroni for a Crowd
Note: I like to serve them in rocks glasses (9 ounces) because they’re a tad smaller than a typical double old fashioned (12. 5 ounces) making them just the right size for an apertif.
1 cup gin
1⁄2 cup Campari
1⁄2 cup sweet vermouth
1 cup blood orange juice or 3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice, plus 1⁄4 cup lime juice
8 slices of blood oranges or navel oranges
Add ingredients to a pitcher filled with ice and stir until well chilled. Fill 8 or so rocks glasses with ice. Pour cocktail into glasses and garish with citrus. Serve.