Wednesday, February 11, 2009
A Trip Down Tuscany Lane, Part I
Something about this time of year makes me crave a cocktail. No, it's not because
Valentine's Day is looming, ok? It's because it was this time of year, many moons ago, that my friend Katherine and I started planning our trip to Florence. And when we were there, we discovered a drink.
Oh, Tuscany. What is not to love? The rolling vineyards, the fields of farro, the art, the gelato. I could write a different post every day about this part of Italy and not be done for weeks.
I won't be doing exactly that, but I can tell you to be on the lookout for a second Tuscan-themed edition very soon. That one will be about food. This one, however, is about a cocktail--a strong, classic, Florentine cocktail.
The Negroni dates back to 20th century Florence and is named for its supposed inventor, Count Camillo Negroni. It fell into relative obscurity for years, and in the spring of 2005, when Katherine and I ordered one at a cafe near the Duomo, it was just beginning, ever so slowly, to experience a renaissance.
Now it's become rather trendy, and you'll see it in bars and restaurants all over the place. To my mind, though, a Negroni is perfect for serving at home because the recipe is straightforward, and you don't need any fancy shakers or spoons.
Composed of equal parts gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari, it does not involve rocket science. (If it did, I wouldn't be writing about it, believe me.) A "girly" drink it is not, but I wouldn't call it "manly" either. I might, however, describe it as seductive. On paper, it sounds intimidating, and the first sip can definitely be rough. The alcohol asserts itself right away, forcing you to pay attention. But if you give your Negroni time, it will mellow and reveal a subtle sweetness that only gets more interesting as you quaff. If served in proper Florentine fashion--on the rocks in a simple tumbler--its strength relents as the ice melts and the gorgeous herbal citrus notes come through.
The Negroni is definitely a very special drink. It's also an intense one, so if you're going to give it a try, you should consider serving it with some kind of snack. I know the perfect accompaniment, but you'll have to wait until Part II to find out what it is!
Posted by Catherine