The Negroni was born of a need for stronger booze. So where the current trend for it has stemmed from one can only guess. Brexit?
A pleasure-loving Italian count – the story goes – reached his favourite bar in Florence after a bad day. One of those days when only an almighty glug of something so strong that it steams back out through your nostrils will do.
Comte Camillo Negroni slumped at the bar. His regular order was an Americano: Campari, vermouth and soda. He called for the barman to make him the usual but make it piu forte.
So, the barman simply took the soda out and added in the equivalent amount of neat gin. Gin, Campari, Vermouth. Presto – the Negroni.
As Francesco Orefici, the bar manager at the 45 Park Lane hotel who told us this story said, “the Comte was an aristocrat. All he had to do was drink.”
But even for those of us who cannot afford either in headaches or money to spend our lives drinking neat booze, the Negroni has a particular allure. It’s stiff yet rich. The bitterness of the Campari, the sweet nip of Vermouth and the citrus twist. Delicate, decadent and dastardly. Think of it like a Nando’s: both are cheeky – especially late at night.
London’s bartenders are hooked. Negronis have been pouring onto menus across the city in guises that would have the Comte wriggling in his grave. You can even find it on tap at mini steak restaurant chain Flat Iron where gimmicky (but fun) Negroni fountains sit atop the bar.
Here are some of the best and most unusual Negronis to sup in town.
Italophiles should go to The Dog House bar at Bernardi’s Italian in Marylebone. The bar menu stretches to eight Negronis from the classic – done as it should – to one titivated with gold dust and prosecco. Polpetto is good for early evening Negronis: the Venetian vanilla scented Vermouth softens the Campari hit. And pasta favourite, Lina Stores, uses Sabatini gin, a London dry gin made in Tuscany that is surprisingly fruity.
There’s something inevitably glamourous about supping Negroni’s in a fancy hotel. The Rotunda Bar at the Four Seasons Hotel, Ten Trinity Square, serves one with orange blossom and a gin that contains seven botanicals including artichoke and rose hip. Native, over the river, serves a lilting carrot and sea buckthorn version, gentler but intriguing on the nose.
Pachamama’s banana Negroni sounds rogue but the tropical infusion gives it an almost dessert-like deliciousness. The Negroni also travels surprisingly well to Japan at Jinjuu where head bar manager Kristian Breivik has come up with a refreshing white rice negroni: Hwayo 41 soju, gentian root liqueur, white vermouth, and mandarin bitters.
Try the ‘Negrooti’ at Ooty (not so easy to say once you’re two or three jars down). The recently opened Indian in Marylebone makes its Negroni with cardomom-infused Opihr gin and kaffir lime leaves. Opihr also appears in the Pehla Nasha at DUM Biryani in Soho along with delicate pear liqueur and a feisty clove and chilli syrup.
Bar 45 at 45 Park Lane has its own Negroni trolley – and it’s quite something. The aged Negroni comes straight out of a tiny oak barrel and is a mellow, late night sipper. For an unusual take on smoky try Duck & Waffle’s ‘classic’ ristretto negroni. It has all the regular ingredients plus slow drip coffee grounds, which gives a dark, roasted finish.