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Bar Fri Oct 28 2011

A Negroni That's Not a Negroni, Please

negronis_darker.jpgIt seems that negronis are having a moment.

Classic cocktails in general are, of course, but has anyone else noticed the negroni in particular getting a lot of attention lately? It must be negroni season.

I love the idea of a negroni -- traditionally 1 part gin, 1 part Campari, and 1 part sweet vermouth. But while I'm a fan of all of those things separately, I just can't get on the negroni train. Let's be honest here: they're kind of gross. Or, if you disagree, you'll at least grant me that they're an acquired taste. In fact I don't think I've ever heard the negroni described without "they're kind of an acquired taste" added as a caveat. It's a drink that's quite strong and bitter and sweet, all at once.

So, a negroni-lover I am not. But I am stubborn, and possibly also somewhat of a lush, so through trial and error I've discovered some pretty tasty variations on the negroni to be found here in Chicago. Here are a few of my favorites, culled from my highly scientific research process of asking local bartenders, "what can you make me that's kind of like a negroni but um, isn't?"

Longman & Eagle: the Negroni di Aquila
With Aperol in place of the Campari and Prosecco instead of gin, this is a sweet and refreshing drink -- but not too sweet, thanks to Punt e Mes. This goes down easy, very easy. You've been warned.

The Whistler: the Martinez
This is a classic gin cocktail made with maraschino liqueur and vermouth. Mine was made with Old Tom gin, Carpano Antica, and of course a cherry. (I love ordering drinks with a cherry at the Whistler, where you get a delicious, real, liquor-soaked cherry, not one of those bright red things -- can we talk about how gross those are?) Nicely sweet but still strong.

Gilt Bar: the Boulevardier
This is another classic drink. Possibly the most similar to a negroni, there is only one substitution -- rye or bourbon for gin. In this case, Wild Turkey rye. Baffled as to why I would enjoy this but not a negroni, I asked after the ratios, and the bartender informed me that there's a little more rye than either Campari or vermouth here. Bonus: while negroni season might be up for debate, there's no question as to whether it's whiskey season, so drink up.

So there you have it. Go forth this weekend and drink your negronis-that-aren't-negronis!

 

Seth Anderson / October 28, 2011 3:35 PM

When I make my own negronis (or variants), I always reduce both campari and vermouth to about half of the main spirit (gin, or rye, etc.). Probably why you liked the Gilt Bar’s version. Otherwise, the Campari overpowers everything, and the vermouth over-sweetens.

Giuliano / October 29, 2011 9:07 AM

*sighs* well, what does a pig know about antiparasitics?

Hugh Amano / November 2, 2011 10:19 AM

Well put article. My first negroni came in the form of a sorbet a co-worker made at down in Atlanta so many years back. I had no idea what it was, and perhaps the upped sweetness to make it a viable sorbet was exactly the training wheels I needed to enter the negroni scene, but I've loved the drink ever since. But you are totally correct--usually, you are repulsed by it, or you love it, or are slowly forcing yourself to love it. But once you get there, the mighty negroni will reign as the apertif of choice, and you'll even find yourself craving Campari on the rocks. The drinks above are great in their own right, for sure, but give me the standard negroni everyday!

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