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The Negroni: Elegance in a glass.

The Negroni: Elegance in a glass.

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I simply would not want to live in a world without Campari in it. I know that’s a pretty bold statement, but to me there is nothing that embodies elegance in a glass quite the way a Negroni does. But I’m a person who loves bitterness in cocktails and Campari’s biting orange flavor definitely fits into that category. Technically speaking, Campari is considered to be an apertivo, or a substance that you drink before a meal to prepare your digestive system for what’s coming. It is also one of the Italian Amari, a group of versatile herbal liqueurs that are currently among the rising stars of the cocktail world. The origin of the Negroni itself dates back to to 1919 when a Count Camillo Negroni was rumoured to be drinking Americanos in a bar in Florence. Americanos are made with sweet vermouth, Campari, and club soda. Desiring a stronger drink, he asked the bartender to replace the club with gin and so the Negroni was born. A happy day for me! The recipe below calls for equal parts gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth. This is traditional and it’s the one that I use, but many bartenders bump the gin up to 1.5 ounces. Try it both ways (side by side if you can) and see which you prefer. You’ll want a less botanical gin here so go with something like Bluecoat (my favorite and distilled here in Philadelphia), Tanqueray or Beefeater. As far as sweet vermouth goes, I prefer Carpano Antica Formula and Dolin Rouge, but again try each one and you decide. And finally, the Negroni is a drink that is best served very cold. It tends to fall apart as it warms up and so I love it over ice, preferably one large cube.

1 oz Bluecoat gin
1 oz Campari
1 oz Carpano Antica or Dolin Rouge
1 orange peel for garnishing

Place all the ingredients except the orange peel in your mixing glass (or shaker tin). Add ice (medium cubes) until the glass (or tin) is 2/3 full. Remember that too much ice will make it hard to stir and too little will not chill the drink enough. Stir with a long handled bar spoon for 15-20 seconds or until very cold. Strain using a Julep strainer and pour into an Old-Fashioned or bucket glass with one large ice cube in it. Express the oils from the orange peel across the top of the drink by squeezing the peel with the skin side out and the white pith side towards you. Drop the peel in the drink. This is a beautiful cocktail! Take a moment to admire it and then get ready for a taste like nothing else!

Check back with me tomorrow for the Thursday Barlogue when I’ll be covering Charlie was a sinner in Philadelphia!

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The Manhatten: Finding the perfect balance, part 2.

The Manhatten: Finding the perfect balance, part 2.

manhatten

The Manhatten is very much like the Old-Fashioned in the sense that it seems as though it should be one of the simplest drinks in the world to prepare. It’s only made with three ingredients – what could possibly go wrong? Let’s just throw them in a mixing glass, stir ’em up, and pour! Right? Wrong! I think you’re all getting to know me better than that! The trick is in finding the right balance between the ingredients that make up the Manhatten, and also in understanding and respecting the role that each ingredient has to play. Only then can you create the drink in the way in which it was intended to be made, and, as a bonus, you can even reach a little farther and begin to come up with your own variations. So let’s consider what’s actually in a Manhatten. First we have rye whiskey, which is going to be drier (or less sweet) than the bourbon we used in last week’s Old-Fashioned. I also find that rye has a distinct spiciness to it and that’s what makes it work so well with the sweet vermouth. These two elements bring the drink into balance, but we still need one more ingredient to tie it all together and that’s where the bitters come in. There’s a great exercise in the new Death & Co Modern Classic Cocktails book that has you make three different Manhattens. In the first one, you use considerably less vermouth. In the second variation, you leave out the bitters. Finally, you follow the recipe just as it is. Tasting the drinks side by side really illustrates the importance of each component. Give it a try! It’s a little like being back in high school chemistry.

2.5 oz rye whiskey*
3/4 oz sweet vermouth**
2 dashes Angostura or other aromatic bitters***
1 Italian Amarena cherry for garnishing****

Place all the ingredients in the larger half of a shaker tin or in a very pretty mixing glass (if you have that special someone sitting in front of you). Add ice to the shaker (or glass) until its about 2/3 full. Too much ice will make it hard for you to stir; too little will not chill the drink. Stir the drink with a long handled bar spoon for a good 15-20 seconds. When the drink is chilled, strain it using a Julep strainer, and pour it into a chilled cocktail glass. Drop the cherry into the glass and serve.

*I used Bulleit rye for my Manhatten. Redemption is also a good choice if you don’t have a favorite.

**Two options here: Carpano Antica Formula (sweeter) or Punt e Mes (a bit more complex and bitter). I love the Punt e Mes.

***Try Fee Brothers, Scrappy’s, Bittermilk, Hella Bitters or any other hand-crafted bitters.

****Available locally in the cheese department of Whole Foods.

Cocktail coupe glass made by Schott Zwiesel.

As you can see there are lots of options here. Don’t be afraid to experiment until you come up with which combination of ingredients you like best. Enjoy!

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