The Classic Negroni

1/3 Sweet Vermouth

1/3 Campari

1/3 Dry Gin

It would appear to be the simplest of beverages. Three distilled liquors measured in equal parts, chilled and served with an orange garnish.

Year after year, I would request this most simple of beverages, to be met with an annoyed, blank stare from the bar man.  The instant that I glimpsed that stare, I would quickly feign a change of heart and order a glass of wine. Then, I happened upon a tiny wine bar in West Hollywood.  I hesitantly asked for a Negroni from the very tall barman, who to my shock and amazement, couldn’t have been happier to receive the order.  He leaped into motion, pouring, concocting, inquiring about substitute spirits that I had never heard of, furiously stirring, burning oils from the grated pith of fresh citrus, finally and quite dramatically pouring the entire contents of the shaker over fresh ice. He proudly placed in front of me what was to be my first perfect Negroni. Life as I knew it would never be the same.  Nor, happily, would the Negroni.

That wine bar (Bin 8945) and that brilliant bar man (Damian Windsor) soon began to suffer our arrival weekly.  Damian’s execution of the classic Negroni took on many forms, many spirits, and many flavors, all exceptional.  It was the first glimpse of a cocktail renaissance in Los Angeles. We witnessed its brilliant beginnings and have since marveled at what it has become.

The world of the bartender has evolved exponentially since that first encounter with Mr. Windsor.  Talented bar men and women are now touted as mixologists, and woe unto those that cannot offer his or her guest a wild and heretofore unknown version of any classic cocktail. The two cocktails pictured above were produced behind the bars of Cole’s in downtown Los Angeles and Red Medicine in mid city LA; the version below at The Tasting Kitchen in Venice, CA. Each interesting variations, each superb in its own brilliant way. Liqueurs are interchanged, classic evolves into modern, and men and women that once churned out hundreds of Apple Martinis nowadays exhibit just as much creativity and thoughtful contemplation as a great chef.

It is the rare occasion that I receive that annoyed, blank stare from a bartender upon ordering a Negroni.  It is more often that I sink into the cool comfort of a Negroni as I have never tasted or enjoyed before, envisioned entirely anew, while respecting the classic recipe of this simple, delicious beverage.

Read HERE about a brilliant variation of the cocktail from one of my favorite food and beverage writers, Frank Bruni of the New York Times.  The man enjoys a good Negroni!

Mr. Windsor may be found in Los Angeles HERE and HERE.  Ask for him by name!