The Italians have this custom: an apéritif before a meal. Apéritifs are bitter drinks meant to stimulate the appetite. And they work. You wouldn’t think so, but they do, especially before those huge Italian entrees.
The largest cookware in the culinary arsenal is reserved for Italian cuisine. They cook and dine in substantial numbers. (Imagine Peter Clemenza in the Godfather, stirring that huge pot. “Mikey, why don’t you tell that nice girl you love her?”)
Enter the Negroni.
The Negroni is very much a cocktail for foodies, or at least for those who are serious about the gustatory event to follow. The Negroni drinker is the temperamental opposite of the Long Island Iced Tea drinker. You’ll never see a patron getting shitfaced on Negronis because they’re bitter. They’re meant to be bitter. If you’re one of those always bemoaning the syrupy-sweet trend in American cocktails, a Negroni will not err in this regard.
Yes, it has sweet vermouth.
Yes, I see the color.
I know, I know. It looks like a blowsy whore of a cocktail. Nothing could be further from the truth. Trust me; it’s acrid as all get out.
And that’s what made this particular effort so … astute. The usual garnish is an orange twist. That massive slice would be overly decadent anywhere else. (Save it for the Mai Tais, right?) But Negronis are so acerbic to the American palate that you require the whole wedge just to balance out the campari & gin.
Cocktails like this underscore why a bartender’s best efforts usually surface in restaurants, and not bars or clubs. They really get it. People are there to taste what they’re drinking. So bartenders intuit on some gut level that the garnish is not merely decor; it’s part of the drink.
1 part gin
1 part sweet vermouth
1 part Campari