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May 27, 2014

Drinks worthy of slow sipping

These would be drinks you'd savor with a large lit cigar on an evening in the Ginza District, Tokyo, or offer a woman worthy of the title Lady, dressed in an evening dress in a soiree at the Rainbow Room, New York. These are drinks you'd order while sitting on a large leather couch watching the Charente river in Cognac or after a successful business rendezvous atop the Petronas towers, Malaysia. These are cocktails carrying a symbolic meaning of success, of power, of control. They don’t all agree with the local palates, you will not find in these drinks many fruits or sugar, no cans of preservatives or energy-drinks will be opened in the making process. Our password here is Balance.

Posted By: Oron Lerner

Such cocktails might let you know you're facing a bartender who takes his job somewhat seriously, one who would opt to learn the trade secrets and skills. When I frequent a new watering hole and wishes to get a clue as to the level of drinks served before allowing the bartender to offer me something of his own design, these cocktails make the means for just such a measure. They might indicate the drinker as a man of the world, experienced and knowledgeable, to some degree. Though we know drinks don’t really imprint their drinker with their characteristics, and there are plentiful of drinkers whose money-pockets aren’t deep and yet do take fancy to expensive drinks, however the Negroni has long been an international symbol of a place serving decent drinks.
Like many great cocktails, its history is riddled with mystery and unclear facts, what should surprise no one as those who imbibed in drinks tended to forget or rather fantasize and the historical clue left most clear is the recipe itself, lest it be lost and the drinkers will no longer be able to tipple in the drink again.
No matter how the recipe changed over the years, or changes when passing between bars, the general idea is equal parts (1oz) of Gin, Campari and Sweet Vermouth (The last one was, apparently and originally only 3/4oz), stirred over ice and garnished with an orange peel twist, its oils discarded into the drink.
Sounds simple, but it isn’t. Like many great drinks, Balance is in the small details. The tough part is deciding which gin and vermouth to use. There are subtle differences between sweet vermouth brands, and gin brands and it is important to try and distinguish between them, try and fit them together. I find a Bombay gin Negroni more floral and silky than a Plymouth one, which'll have more spice notes. I find putting more vermouth than Campari works well with Tanqueray but the opposite will do with Beefeater, the differences are small but noticeable, much like a discord played in the background of the palate. And to answer your next question, I find the best Negroni I've yet to try was a G'Vine Nouaison served with Carpano Antica and Campari at the Cognac-based distillery's small bar. The orange zest I personally prefer flamed – just hold the peel between finger and thumb, light a lighter between the peel and glass and squeeze the peel so as to express the oils as they burn over the drink, adding burnt scents to the drink and accentuating the orange. A Negroni without an orange peel just wouldn’t be right.
Don’t jump straight to changing the ingredients in an often seen attempt to tweak a classic cocktail, with the Negroni, adding is often counterproductive. the recipe is simple, the balance delicate, the finished drink superb. This is just the sort of drink to have when you grow tired of all those new adventures and find yourself in search of a simple, strong and good cocktail to be sipped slowly.

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