I always stress to aspiring drinkers the importance of time and place for all things drink related. A gentleman or a lady should always have their drink of choice ready to go, and it doesn’t have to be the same drink at all times. That’s where the “time and place” part comes in.
To wit: My airplane drink of choice is a gin and tonic. It’s simple, readily available, nearly impossible to screw up, and I don’t sound like an asshole when I order one. My steakhouse pre-dinner drink is a Manhattan; I’m not too picky when I’m at a good old-fashioned steak joint, so I’m not going to quibble over the brand of vermouth or the type of cherry they have available. I don’t care.
My fancy cocktail bar drink is a Daiquiri; I’m very particular about my Daiquiri, so I want to take advantage of the fact that I’ve got a talented bartender in front of me and have a delicious, well balanced drink. But there’s one cocktail that I keep in my pocket for those occasions when I want something special, but need something safe. That drink is the Negroni.
Complex enough to satisfy a sophisticated craving, yet simple enough to avoid pretense, the Negroni is forgiving enough to be dealt by the hand of a neophyte. The ingredients are readily available in any decent bar, can be mixed without special tools or knowledge, and the recipe can be recited succinctly and interpreted easily: equal parts gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari - on the rocks with an orange twist.
If the Negroni isn’t in your repertoire, and you’re experiencing frustration trying to get the guy at the chain restaurant bar to concoct a perfectly balanced Remember the Maine, then I can assure you that you’re doing drinking wrong. It’s the right drink to order any time of year; acceptable to sip from sunset until after dinner, and is challenging enough for you but approachable enough for your friends. Take a bartender’s advice on this one.
• 1 oz. London dry gin (look for Ford’s Gin, it screams Negroni)
• 1 oz. sweet vermouth
• 1 oz. Campari
Combine ingredients with ice cubes and stir until cold. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass or over fresh ice in an Old Fashioned glass, as is your preference. Garnish with an orange peel.
Jeffrey Morgenthaler is the bar manager at Pépé le Moko and Clyde Common, the acclaimed gastropub at the Ace Hotel in Portland, Oregon. He is also author of The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique.
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