The Negroni, the Cocktail I Just Couldn’t Love Back

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I paced the aisle more than once, on more than one visit, debating whether I should get it. Buying just a little bit to try was not an option. There was one large bottle selling for about $25 sitting on the top shelf among the other aperitifs.

Campari. It was a fun word to say. One afternoon, I snagged it. I’d been picturing us spending happy hour at home sipping the classic drink, the Negroni. It calls for Campari, that bitter Italian liqueur in a brilliant shade of red. I don’t know when a cocktail has been met with more anticipation in this house.

There are recipes for the Negroni everywhere, including on the bottle of Campari. The recipe on the label calls for 1 ounce of Campari, 1 ounce of Cinzano Rosso vermouth, and 1 ounce gin. But I turned to our new favorite cookbook for how to prepare  this vibrantly-colored cocktail.

We sliced an orange and assembled the gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth. We were instructed that this drink is all about the proportions, and we stuck to them.

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It didn’t occur to me that I might not like this drink at all. My first impression was that it was refreshing, but all I tasted was bitterness. I tried a few more sips and then gave up. I didn’t even finish my drink. I’ve finished bad Manhattans (they happen, sadly) but as much as I wanted to, I couldn’t finish this one. So in just a few minutes, Danny was double fisting two Negronis and I had nothing. Nothing but disappointment. And the realization that I guess I just don’t like Campari.

I made myself another drink and tried to catch up, but my mind was still on the Negroni. I’m not usually one for sweet drinks, but I kept thinking the Negroni might’ve been okay for me with the addition of simple syrup. Maybe I should try that. Danny really enjoyed the drink, but he also loves bitter IPAs, which I shun. I order beers along the lines of a saison or a brown ale.

But I’m disheartened. The thing is there’s a blood orange and campari cake in “Polpo” that I’d bookmarked. It is a single-layer cake made with ground almonds and flooded with Campari-based syrup. It’s beautiful. But now I don’t know. How could I love it? And how could I dream of escaping to Venice when I didn’t like an ingredient that’s called for in several recipes from this book. I guess I could stick to Prosecco.

What do you think of Negronis? Or Campari, for that matter.

And here’s the real question — what do I do with the rest of that bottle?

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The recipe is in milliliters but just know that the 25 ml called for each ingredient comes to a little less than 1 ounce. The proportions are what’s important, and they shouldn’t be messed with in this cocktail. It seems to be one of those drinks you love or hate. Time to mix up and find out what it is for you.

25 ml gin
25 ml Campari
25 ml sweet vermouth
a slice of orange

Fill a small glass with ice. Pour the ingredients over the ice and stir once or twice. Add a slice of orange and serve.

Makes 1 drink. Recipe from “Polpo: A Venetian Cookbook of Sorts” by Russell Norman.

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9 thoughts on “The Negroni, the Cocktail I Just Couldn’t Love Back

  1. I also bought Campari for the sole purpose of making a Negroni and I hated it too! It’s been sitting in my liquor cabinet (which is really the bottom of my pantry), ever since. You’re not alone!

  2. I had also become curious about the Negroni, but luckily I ordered it at my favorite Roanoke bar, sparing me the expense of a full bottle of Campari. My experience was a similar one. The front-end taste was actually pretty good, but the finish was not-to-be desired. I thought it must have been the waythe drink had been prepared at this particular bar, but perhaps not.

    You bring up an interesting point about ‘liking bitter things,’ because I’m not a huge IPA fan, either. I’ll drink them, but I definitely stick more to Belgian and brown ales (Belgian IPAs are awesome). Wonder if there is a correlation there.

    Lately, even though it’s the wrong season, I’ve really enjoyed a simple Pimm’s No. 1 cup. Kind of a spring drink, but totally something to relax with.

    • That was a smart move! Now you know. Though people say it’s an acquired taste, I don’t know. It reminds me of the anti-cilantro people who don’t eat it because to them it tastes like soap. Oh well, there are certainly more cocktails out there for us and many Belgians and brown ales to enjoy.

      I haven’t tried a Pimm’s cup yet, but it sounds incredibly refreshing. Anyway, spring is coming early this year, right?

  3. I also bought a bottle of Campari thinking a Negroni couldn’t be that bad. I do love the most bitter IPA’s and even enjoy tonic water by itself. I added soda / citrus / sugar and still cringed. Trying the higher gin ratios – Nope… But then! After a few nights trying it out, I went back to the proper 1:1:1 with the excessive 30 second stir and pointlessly straining onto more ice rather than leaving it in the cup. Don’t forget the twist and rim job. Sipping ever so slightly I felt it growing on me. Definitely not a guzzling drink in the San Diego summer, yet there is something making me keep sipping with a confused look on my face, curious each time.

  4. I can only enjoy Campari by the drop used as bitters, and I’m a foodie. I too felt there’s something wrong with me. I also dislike caraway. I had a biology professor tell me that caraway intolerance is a genetically protective mutation some people have.Caraway in quantity is poisonous. Maybe Campari is similar.

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