Although the Negroni cocktail is centuries old, some might say that it is only just hitting its stride. And that is something that author, and Gin Hall Of Fame recipient, David Smith is trying to share with his new Book, Negroni.
Not written as a history or a bartender account, the book is constructed in a similar format to Smith’s last book Gin Tonica and as such is strongly recipe-driven. Designed to highlight the realm of different variations that this simple three-ingredient cocktail has spurred, the cocktails included range from those served straight over ice to sparkling aperitivo spritzes.
“The thing about the Negroni is that it is a drink that has that nice ‘later in the evening’ feel about it; it’s a more intimate drink than most,” Smith explained. “I would say it was certainly one of the more elemental of the gin drinks, and more contemplative as a little aperitif or just something to have a sip of at night.
“When you think of something like a Negroni, you think, “Okay, it’s gin, it’s Campari, it’s vermouth. How much variation can you have?” And then you go into it, and realise there are a load of variations.”
Written for anyone who is a fan of the Negroni, Smith wants to show off not only the scope of variations but also the complexities that can exist. And from there, Smith hopes that the book will act as a starting point for experimental inspiration.
“Don’t be afraid to experiment and try different things,” Smith says. “The worst-case scenario is it doesn’t work and you pour it down the sink. But at its best, it is a place where you can find these great combinations. I’ve made some things I thought, “Oh, maybe this and this will work together,” and sometimes it’s absolutely dreadful, and sometimes it’s fantastic.”
Co-authored with Keli Rivers, the Sipsmith brand ambassador, who Smith describes as a great gin historian, the books embraces the use of different spirits including Bourbon, rum and even mezcal, as well as a variety of modifiers including different vermouths, ports and cherries. But Smith, who is a contributing editor for Gin Magazine, is most interested in the way that Juniper spirits work in the drink.
He views the strong flavours of the Negroni as a great test of Gin. “So many flavour aspects of Gin are able to come out in a Negroni. You might think it’s strong flavours are going to mask the gin, in my experience, that’s not really the case. There are some gins I’ve tasted and not been wowed by them, but put them into a Negroni and they are often redeemed.
“The flavours work in a different way,” Smith continued. “I know that sounds dreadfully pretentious, but the Negroni refocuses the flavours in gins. And I think that’s the thing that I find quite exciting about it. You can have gin in a G&T, or a martini, but it’s only when you get to a Negroni, that things change and switch.”
When asked what his favourite rendition of an original Negroni is, Smith mentions a combination of a Belgium gin called Filliers 28, Martini’s Gran Lusso Vermouth and then Campari, all in equal parts.
“Often when I make it, I put it in a little carafe, or a little bottle or something and I’d stick it in the freezer for an hour or so,” he continued. “By that point, it has become all thick and viscous. And as nuts as it might sound, I really enjoyed drinking it while listening to Holst’s Venus.”
But Smith says he can easily understand the polarising nature of the drink. “Some people love them and some people hate them” he said. “When I first tried a Negroni, I thought it was dreadful – too bitter, too sweet and just horrible. But if you persevere, you start to appreciate the complexities.”
Surprising, when asked which of the variations in the book is his favourite, Smith chooses a non-Gin rendition, the Kingston. “That’s the one with the rum, I think it’s fantastic. “Until I did the book, I was really just like, “It’s gin, and gin all the way.” But for the Kingston, we used Smith and Cross, which is a Jamaican pot still rum and it is just fantastic.
“Obviously, I love the gin variations,” he continued, “but the possible variations are really the thing with the Negroni. There are so many ways to play around with this drink and I really like that.”
Negroni is available through amazon and all good booksellers.