Monday, 21 March 2011

The Negroni & The Americano

When i first had these cocktails, I must admit, I found them hard to drink. They are complex flavours for your palette to take if you've never drunk them before. However, over time my palette developed and i started to gain great appreciation for these classics. The Negroni and the Americano are designed to be great palette cleansers, they are "aperitif" cocktails. By definition, an aperitif cocktail is a drink served before a meal. It's meant to stimulate appetite, usually accompanied by cheese, crackers or dips.  The inspiration for the Negroni, came from another classic cocktail called the "Americano". The Americano was created during the 1860's by an Italian bartender, Gaspare Campari. And yes... Gaspare Campari was also the inventor of the famous spirit, Campari. Gaspare was a master drink maker. He was producing spirits and aperitif's since the age of 14. His trademark aperitif, Campari, was sold throughout Italy and was gaining momentum in popularity though Europe. Gaspare refused to share the recipe for his "Campari" with anyone and to this day the distillery is still owned be the family. There is said to be only 1 person in the family at any one time who knows the true recipe for Campari.  With the popularity of Campari growing in during the 1860's, Gaspare came up with the perfect cocktail to go with it. The Americano was a mix of Campari, sweet vermouth and topped with soda water.  He named it this because he noticed that Americans seemed to enjoy this drink whilst they travelled through Italy, more than the locals.

We leap forward 50 years... The Americano was now already well know, some might say it was a classic even back then. The year was 1919, at Cafe Giacosa in Florance, Italy. Count Camillo Negroni asked the bartender to add some strength to his Americano, by substituting the soda water, for a shot of gin. This cocktail was an instant hit at that bar and slowly began to be a regular drink served all over Italy. Count Negroni even opened his own distillery and attempted to sell pre-made versions of his Americano variation. This version of the drink was popular for a little while, but like most things, the original is always the best.  These 2 classic cocktails play an important roll in the bar culture today. They are one of the major reasons that Campari is stocked in almost every bar in the world.

Making the Americano is as easy as making a mix drink. Start with a short glass (rocks glass). Add 30ml of sweet vermouth, 30ml of Campari, some ice and then top up with soda water. The Negroni is slightly more involved. Get your shaker, add 30ml sweet vermouth, 30ml Campari, 30ml gin ( I like to use Plymouth gin, but it's entirely up to you), add lots of ice and stir. In the Americano, we had soda water diluting the straight spirit, so with the Negroni, it's important to try and dilute the spirit as much as you can by stirring ice through it, or else the straight alcohol may be too much for you to handle. Once you've stirred for long enough, strain your shaker into a chilled martini glass. I like to garnish with an orange zest or orange wedge. It works well and brings out the flavours in the Campari.

Like i said, these are tough cocktails to drink if your palette isn't used to them, so play around with Campari and ease your way into drinking it.  Hope you enjoy the Americano and the Negroni.

The Americano:
30ml Campari
30ml Sweet Vermouth
Add Ice
Top up with Soda Water

The Negroni:
In a Shaker,
30ml Campari
30ml Sweet Vermouth
30ml Gin
Add ice and stir
Once stirred well, Strain into chilled Martini Glass

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