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.
Why 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.
We 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.
And 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.
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