Thursday, June 5, 2014
But first of all, what is a Negroni? Well, the historic reference for drinking them dates back to the mid-1970’s. I was on yet another trip to Italy, along with my parents. It was an upbringing that you cannot read in a book, nor watch on television. Movies only offer snippets of recreated European travel, so the only way to really understand Europe is to go there and whatever you do, don’t take a tour-bus. You might as well eat all your meals at Americanized fast food restaurants because to experience Europe you must eat and drink like a European. Just my opinion.
My parents never begrudged me the occasional beer or glass of wine either with our meals. I think they thought that I’d be less likely to abuse alcohol if it was around all the time. Of all the things I disagree with, in regard to their style of child rearing, this was the only one that made perfect sense.
To this day I look at Day Drinking as the only time I really enjoy a cocktail. I suppose it dates back to being in Europe as a boy and drinking every day!
The Negroni was not necessarily something that I would order in a restaurant, but I do remember vividly the first time I saw one. We were in Rome, staying at the Hotel Hassler at the top of the Spanish Steps. Lining the steps were cafés, really no more than a couple of stand up tables with stand up guys and their girls sipping vivid red short cocktails. After a couple of these potent drinks everyone becomes like actors in a Black and White Fellini movie. That is what Rome represents to me, even to this day. If you close your eyes when visiting Rome and open them on the Spanish Steps – well, you’ll see what I mean. The light hasn’t changed although seeing the world in color is much different than in Black and White in the Fellini films.
Back to the Negroni. Count Negroni as legend has it was rather fond of the cocktail known as the Americano (Campari and Vermouth with soda water). Being a nobleman with either a stomach ache or a drinking problem – or both…, he asked his bartender to change the cocktail and remove the fizzy water in favor of a large dose of gin.
As it turns out to fans of the classics, and with history being my guide, this drink of Campari, Sweet Vermouth and Gin- to present day is still named the Negroni.
I’m certainly not calling my drink a Negroni, but what I will call it is the Hubbery Devrey Cardigan, named after a character in Monty Python’s Flying Circus. It’s a silly name for a very grown-up sense of humor, dispensed sip-by-sip.
In this case on ordering a Negroni, while walking up (or down) the Spanish Steps, your typical combination of Campari, Sweet Vermouth (often of a dubious origin) and gin (is that gin or rockgut?) is poured down the throats of thirsty tourists in bars that line the broad Spanish Steps in Rome.
May I propose something completely different in this case. Being someone who is not a Nobleman, well this does create certain difficulties when working with venerable cocktails such as the Negroni. Please hear me out on this; I think the finish is brilliant and very, very fresh. And modern. And fascicle. Because life is meant to be all things, bitter, sweet and strange.
I’ve been drinking Spanish Vermouth as of late. These are brilliant efforts are made with some of the most expressive base wines available from Spain- and only in miniscule quantities. Spanish Vermouth is certainly a gourmet’s pleasure.
Atxa Vermouth Tinto is from the Basque Region of Spain. It is a lovely sipping Vermouth, bursting with flavors of citrus and tobacco. I love it in a Negroni, especially one of a different stripe like the Hubbery Devrey Cardigan Negroni.
Next in this philosophically incorrect version of the classic Negroni I’ve included Orleans Bitter Aperitif Cider infused with red currant and bitters, I know already that your ears have perked up and the word bitter may connote something else entirely. Whatever your idea is about Campari, may I please suggest substituting the Orleans Bitter with red currant and bitter herbs instead? Thank you.
And now in a tip of the hat to the alchemists who discovered that saffron really is worth muchGabriel Boudier Saffron Infused Gin as the gin component to this cocktail. Who can resist something as elegant as gin in a cocktail that is woven it seems from the finest grains and the best saffron that money can pluck from impossibly tiny flowers. Did you say add saffron to a Negroni? I think so, rabbit.
more than gold I’m including
The gin element is unmistakable. You cannot imagine what this drink was like without the deeply mysterious aromatics of exotic saffron coursing through each sip. The combination of the Orleans Bitter and the Spanish Vermouth along with the saffron infused gin is otherworldly.
I finish this drink with a splash of Bitter Truth Grapefruit bitters. My thoughts are simple. Where there is gin, somewhere there should be juice. Or bitters, or something. I forget. I’ll have another please.
Just make a few and let me know how you enjoy it.
Hubbery Devrey Cardigan
2 oz. Gabriel Boudier Saffron Infused Gin
1.5 oz. Orleans Aperitif Cider infused with red currant and bitters
1.0 oz. Atxa Vermouth Tinto
2-3 dashes Bitter Truth Grapefruit bitters
To a cocktail mixing glass, fill ¾ with bar ice
Add the gin, then the cider, followed by the vermouth
Stir 30 times with a long cocktail spoon
Strain with a Hawthorne Strainer into two coupe glasses
Garnish with lemon twists and dot the top with the grapefruit bitters to finish
Cheers from DrinkUpNY!
Article by Warren Bobrow, a nationally published food and spirits columnist who writes for Williams-Sonoma, Foodista and the Beekman Boys.