On paper, there is nothing quite so simple as a Negroni: three delicious measures of liquid, gin of choice, red vermouth of choice, Campari. Some part of the orange fruit to garnish. Done.
But recently, I had been enjoying more than a few drinks with one the gin world’s biggest names (whom I’ll not name here), when this little beauty, for all its simplicity, caused a big blazing row. Tempers were fraught, patience was tested and lips were bitten.
I do have to shoulder most of the blame, which is only fair, because, well, I started it. You see, I do not like my Negroni stirred. Do not stir my Negroni. He, however, does.
You can probably imagine how the conversation went:
‘Don’t stir my Negroni,’ said I to the bartender.
‘Really? Stir mine. I want it a perfectly drinkable when it is delivered to me,’ said he to the bartender.
‘Perfectly drinkable? It’s a Negroni. It is perfectly drinkable,’ I protested.
‘Only with some dilution’
‘It is served on ice. It will dilute of its own accord.’
‘But I want to drink it now. So please stir it.’
‘It’s. A. Negroni. It is served on ice.’
‘So do you stir your Rum and Coke for optimum dilution and temperature?’
‘It’s a Negroni.’
‘Stop saying that.’
‘It’s a bloody Negroni.’
‘It needs to be stirred.’
‘Don’t stir my Negroni.’
I think silence ensued and the bartender cried.
Like most old farts in this game, I have a palate for what a friend calls short, moody, stirred drinks. Manhattans, Martinezes, Martinis. For all of these drinks, control over dilution and temperature is a tricky balance achieved through stirring and repeatedly tasting. Shaking might work faster, but all control is lost, so chances are if you shake my Martini, it’ll be sent back for being either too watery or not watery enough.
If you ‘throw’ my drink, well: just don’t.
It might look swish, and it may be a classic, time-honoured technique, but it is purely style over substance (which, by the way, is almost always the underlying problem with everything that is wrong with this industry).
I have never, ever, seen a bartender tasting a drink he is throwing. Save your theatrics for a time and place where the environment is so appalling you’ll do anything to steer away the attention. A decent bar spends time, money and above all, effort on the surroundings of its guests. Throwing is not needed or warranted.
If you do stir my Negroni, you are skipping forward in the timeline of the drink to a point were dilution and temperature are ideal. Then you hand it over to me to drink whilst the drink rapidly deteriorates into bittersweet melted ice. It is, by definition, all downhill from here. Jeez, thanks.
If I order a Negroni, I will drink it in my own time, at my own pace.I will not be forced to down it as quickly as possible for ‘optimum’ enjoyment. The Negroni and I will dance to our own tune. That’s the bloody point.
Do not stir my Negroni. Not with a spoon, not with a straw, not with an old man’s finger (what the hell is that about? Body parts do not belong in my drink).
Besides, it’s a Negroni. Even the mere thought of trying to quell this tumultuous beauty is a sham. If you think it must be stirred you clearly don’t understand what it actually is. It is three wild, complex, exciting, dynamic liquids, thrown together in a glass with all the laissez-faire, artistic flair that its Italian origins exude. It is transportive escapism. It is untamed beauty. It is nature. A Negroni is a welcome break from the restrictions and mathematics of its uptight cousins. It is a summer picnic; a sunny canal side hiatus; it is people-watching in the warm glow of a sunset in a foreign place. Don’t try to recreate this. Don’t try to temper it. Don’t try to master it.
Don’t stir my Negroni.
Pic by Rob Lawson