Boozehound: On the Trail of the Rare, the Obscure, and the Overrated in Spirits by Jason Wilson is one of the more enjoyable books I’ve read in a while. Wilson is the spirits writer for the Washington Post, and the book is a great introduction to some of the more interesting ingredients that are becoming increasingly popular with the rise of craft cocktails. Besides compelling anecdotes about drinking aquavit, rhum agricole, and genever, the book includes a number of recipes to help develop a taste for these unique flavors.
I thought that an interesting way to expand both my palate and my bar collection would be to try to make each of the recipes in the book. The basic rules: follow the recipes as written and try not to cut corners on essential ingredients (i.e. bacardi, though cheaper, will not be used in place of rhum agricole).
So to begin, I decided to make a drink that I’ve really fallen in love with lately: The Negroni. I’ve started ordering Negronis at bars as a first drink. Its light but very flavorful, generally easy to make, and the bitter bite of the Campari is such an interesting flavor experience. Smooth, slightly sweet, but with a very bitter, tongue-drying finish. Hands down best Negroni I’ve had: Elements in Pasadena. Great bar with nothing but the best ingredients. Delicious.
1 ounce gin
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1 ounce Campari
Orange peel twist, for garnish
Fill a mixing glass halfway with ice. Add the gin, vermouth, and Campari. Stir vigorously for 30 seconds, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the orange peel twist.
I used Tanqueray for gin and Noilly Prat for the sweet vermouth. The end result is the perfect apertif cocktail. Each element is present in every sip, and none too overwhelming. There is a definite sense of the long history of a drink like this that is fun to contemplate as you sip. Consider the following: “It was invented in the early 1900s by a Florentine aristocrat, Count Camillo Negroni. The count asked a bartender to add some bite to his preferred cocktail, the Americano. With an addition of gin, an instant classic was conceived, and the Negroni became the Count’s new favorite.”
Florentine aristocrat? A Count? I’m sold. Not bad company to be sharing a drink with. Enjoy.