By Beverly Stephen, June 3, 2017
James Bond has his iconic Martini, shaken not stirred. Sex and the City’s Samantha catapulted the Cosmopolitan into the stratosphere.
But I’ll take a Negroni any day of the week. It’s not a manly drink, nor a girlie drink—a fitting drink for our gender neutral times. It’s as pretty as a Cosmopolitan but packs about the same wallop as a Martini.
It’s believed that the Negroni was invented in Italy 1919 whenCount Camillo Negroni asked the bartender at the Hotel Baglioni in Florence to fortify his Americano with gin. It has gained cult status in recent years, perhaps because Americans have learned to love the Italian penchant for bitter flavors. So popular has this Italian apperitif become that there’s now aNegroni week June 5 to 11 with a portion of the proceeds benefitting various charities.
Bars all over the world will be saluting the Negroni but none more seriously than Dante in New York City’s Greenwich Village which has a comprehensive 12 deep list called the Negroni Sessions and décor to match with shelves lined with Campari, Aperol, and various vermouths. When the venerable 100 year old Caffe Dante was recently reimagined as a contemporary Italian inflected restaurant, barman Naren Young, an alum of Saxon and Parole, was brought on to develop a distinctive bar program. Turning the spotlight on an Italian inspired cocktail fit the bill perfectly "because our whole concept is European apperitivi," Young says.
Young offers the house Negroni “on tap”, the Americano, and the Sbagliato or “mistaken Negroni” –so called because there’s no gin. There are also classic variations such as the Old Pal which is made with rye and the Bourbon-based Boulevardier. But Young lets his imagination run wild with out of the box creations such as a chocolate Negroni with crème de cacao and chocolate bitters; a Negroni Coffee Swizzle with mescal and cold brew; and a Frappe with “fluffy” orange juice. The most unlikely creation of all is the Unlikely Negroni with a banana pineapple shrub and chili. "We wanted to show just how diverse the template can be so we created a wonderful mix of old classic recipes mixed in with our own modern interpretations," Young explains, who says the Negroni Sessions have been a "runaway success."
A classic Negroni is easy to make with equal parts of gin, Vermouth, and Campari. Young, however, after much experimentation, has settled on a slight variation on the traditional formula, choosing to measure only three quarter ounces each of Vermouth and Campari to one ounce of gin to deliver a cleaner, less sweet drink. Many bartenders are experimenting with various Vermouths and bitters and even substitutes for Campari. But Young insists that Campari is the standard and the brand on which the cocktail is based. He prefers Bombay Sapphire gin and Martini & Rossi vermouth but he feels okay about other standard brands like Noilly Prat and Cinzano while many of his peers are out chasing more exotic, more expensive vermouths.
And yes, they are stirred, not shaken--Bond’s preference notwithstanding. The idea is to maintain the integrity of spirits forward drinks and prevent dilution. That’s the same reasoning behind using a super size ice cube.
From 4 to 7 every day the drinks will be a very affordable non New York price of $9. I’d love to try all 12 but there are only 7 days in Negroni week.
Not to worry says Young. At Dante the Negroni Sessions will be in session year round.