Matt Hranek’s passion for a Negroni evidently dates back to a hotel bar somewhere in Italy, he can’t remember which. But at the time he was captivated by the cocktail’s colour and its flavour and, as he puts it, its perfect balance of equal parts gin, Campari and vermouth. He might have forgotten the hotel, but the memory of that cocktail lingered on.
How Negroni came about
The origin of a Negroni, the cocktail, is somewhat shrouded in mystery, but a popular version tells of an Italian count, called Negroni, who had developed a taste for gin. In 1919 he was visiting Florence, and requested a barman at the Caffe Casoni to omit the splash of soda water from an Americano (Campari and red vermouth) and replace it with gin – the Negroni was born.
For sure I had heard about Negronis, and I have a feeling that once upon a time I even tried one, but I don’t think I could have liked it very much because it vanished from my preferred drinks’ list.
However, somewhere in between that first drink and the present day I discovered Campari, and after several years was reunited with gin. Without realising it I was virtually two thirds of the way to a pretty good Negroni.
Choosing the correct ingredients
Matt’s book takes us carefully through the ingredients, including his own personal recommendations for the products.
For instance, for gin he recommends a London Dry Gin in preference, something along the lines of Plymouth, Beefeater or Sipsmiths – certainly not a flavoured gin.
He also has his own ideas about which vermouth is best, and has suggestions for an alternative aperitif bitter to Campari.
He recommends certain styles of glassware, along with the tools that a barman might use; and also has thoughts on which snacks go well with a Negroni – preferably something salty and crunchy.
He then takes us onto arguably the most important part of the book – the recipes; 31 of them – perfect for anybody who really wants to experiment rather than sticking to the classic one-part gin, to one-part Campari to one-part vermouth recipe.
I suspect he would not be happy with my personal deviation from the classic recipe, as because I don’t like sweet things, I substitute a dry white vermouth for the sweeter red.
Some great illustrations
Matt starts off with his own ‘house recipe’ before introducing us with style to other Negroni recipes from a number of famous bars around the world. Along with the recipes are delightful pictures ranging from travel destinations to delicious-looking Negroni cocktails, interspersed with some interesting quotations from other Negroni aficionados.
Travels with pre-batched Negronis
He concludes the recipes with a brilliant suggestion for when he is out and about on his travels and not able to get to a bar. Rather than miss out on his favourite tipple for any reason, and not wanting to carry around three separate bottles – he makes up one bottle with his own pre-batched *Negroni, sufficient, he hopes, to last him for the trip!
A joy to read
Mark Hranek, writes skilfully, informatively and with delightful touches of humour. His cleverly illustrated book The Negroni – A Love Affair with a Classic Cocktail is a joy to read, regardless of whether the reader is well-acquainted, or a new comer to the world of Negronis. Highly recommended.
The Negroni – A Love Affair with a Classic Cocktail. Matt Hranek. ISBN: 978-1-57965-964-6. UK £12.99; US $16,95. Artisan. artisanbooks.com
Should it be too much effort to fill a bottle with pre-batched Negronis, as Matt suggests, why not buy a bottle of the excellent Negroni produced by bottled cocktail specialists Bottle Bar and Shop.