• Weekly Cocktail # 54: The Putney Farm Negroni

    negroni

    The Putney Farm Negroni.

    We have heard that the real-world definition of stupidity is to fail at something and then repeat the same action over and over. And yet, here we are again, trying to find a variation of the Negroni that we enjoy. Stupid? Maybe. But the key word here is “variation”, we keep trying new formulas, gins and sweet vermouth with the hope we can break through. And finally we broke through. We found a Negroni recipe we truly love. So were we stupid to keep trying? No…..Tipsy? Maybe.

    negroni7negroni5Why all the effort? The Negroni is a classic cocktail loved by many aficionados that we respect. If they love the drink so much, maybe we can find a version we like. And the formula makes perfect sense, herbal gin, sweet vermouth, bitter and fruity Campari and that beautiful color. Depth, complexity, beauty- what’s not to like?  Well, for us, the problem has been flavor. Too bitter, too ashy and yet too sweet at the same time. There is alchemy in a good Negroni (or any great cocktail), but we were not finding it.

    negroni6negroni4We played with different gins, but be it Tanq or Plymouth or Bluecoat, they didn’t seem to be the problem. As for the Campari- we can play with the ratios, but you need Campari for a real Negroni (although you can sub for it and get a great cocktail). So the last variable was the sweet vermouth, and this was where we have spent much of our time. We love the Carpano Antica, but it was too strongly flavored and brought out the ashy notes of the Campari. Dolin and M&R just seemed sweet and lost to the Campari. But then we got some Cocchi Americano Rosa and we found our answer.

    negroni3And even this may be a bit of a hack. Cocchi Americano Rosa is technically an Americano, a type of quinquina (aperitif wine with chinchona / quinine), but it is an easy substitute for sweet vermouth. What makes the Cocchi work better for us is its combination of bright fruit flavors and bitterness from the quinine. Think very good sangria, with slight bitter notes. The Rosa is lovely to drink on its own with some ice, but in cocktails that call for sweet vermouth, it brings lighter and brighter flavors. A fun ingredient to play with.negroni9

    When we tried the Negroni with the Cocchi Americano Rosa, it was very good, and the bitter flavors of the Cocchi and the Campari were surprisingly complimentary. But we did want to capture more of the fruity notes of the Cocchi, so we took out a bit of the Campari. As for the gin, a very clean and bright gin like Bluecoat or Plymouth are our favorite here, and we put in a bit more to boost the herbal notes (and because we always like more gin). As for garnish, the traditional orange peel works well. Continue reading

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  • Weekly Cocktail #41: The White Negroni

    The White Negroni (the slightly bitter version)

    The White Negroni (the slightly bitter version)

    We have a confession to make. We don’t like the “classic” Negroni cocktail very much. We try to like it, but there is just too much Campari along with the gin and sweet vermouth. Too bitter and too “ashy” for our tastes. And no matter how many times we try it, or how many mixologists, magazines and websites tell us it’s the “cool” drink, it just doesn’t take. But happily, we are parents, and very used to being “uncool”. Our lives will continue on without ever gaining a taste for the Negroni.

    white2white7But we do understand the need for cocktails that include, and even highlight, bitter elements. Right now in cocktail circles (particularly in NYC and San Francisco) bitter flavors are “in”, and it is a somewhat unexplored area of cocktails. But being old enough to see the first microbrewery expansion, and the California wine craze, we can tell you both went into a similar “phase”. Brewers over-hopped everything (sound familiar?) and high-end wine makers and sommeliers started to highlight “green” flavors and acidity (and tried to call it “balance”). We suspect there is a little of “inside-baseball”, “too cool for school-ness” in these trends, and they don’t last (no, they really don’t). But we always keep an open mind and like to try new things. Enter the White Negroni.

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    The bitter version with Suze.

    The bitter version with Suze.

    The White Negroni combines gin, vermouth and/or bitter fortified wine or liqueur. The idea is to have the similar bittersweet flavors of the classic Negroni, but with lighter flavors and colors. And as we like all sorts of gin, dry vermouth and fortified wines, we figured we would have the ingredients to experiment. And we did need a range of ingredients, as there is no single recipe to work from. From the PDT Cocktail Book to Serious Eats to Cocktail Virgin Slut, the recipes abound.

    whiteBut it turns out there are two basic variants of the White Negroni, the slightly bitter and the very bitter. The main difference is in the strength of one flavor, gentian. Gentian is a very bitter root flavor found in many apéritifs and fortified wines. Some, like Cocchi Americano have just a hint of gentian, some like Suze or Salers are “gentian-bombs“. If you like the classic Negroni, make your White Negroni with Suze or Salers. If you are just experimenting with bitter-flavored cocktails, use the Cocchi Americano (good stuff for many cocktails, btw) in your White Negroni.

    white4We include a version of both recipes, but there is room to experiment. Usually the very bitter recipe includes dry gin, Suze and Lillet blanc to add some sweetness and counteract the very bitter Suze. The slightly bitter recipe includes dry gin, dry vermouth and Cocchi Americano. The very bitter White Negroni with the Suze has beautiful yellow color and strong flavor, and it is just as bitter as a classic Negroni (not as “ashy’). Not really for us, but we have friends who do like it. If you like bitter drinks, you will be very happy. Have at it. Continue reading