“Excuse me,” said a polite gentleman behind me in the queue at the checkout the other day, “but what is that?”
He was pointing at the bottle of Campari nestling with the spinach and the carrots on the conveyor belt. I got very excited.
“It’s a bitter, a drink made with chinotto, a type of citrus fruit, very distinctive. It’s lovely with orange juice, or soda. You should try it!”
It turned out that he had seen Campari before but had never tried it since he just didn’t know what it was. I don’t know that I sold it to him, but I was pleased to get a chance to try. I love Campari. It is bitter but ever so bright and it presses a lot of my flavour and glamour buttons. (Campari uses cochineal to get that distinctive red colour which means it’s not vegetarian. That’s a pity but when they started making it 150 years ago that wasn’t a concern.)
My favorite thing to do with Campari is not do dilute it with fresh orange juice, although that makes for a long and attractive drink, or mix it with soda, although that is delicious and refreshing, but to make a Negroni.
Although popular in Italy and Australia (the birth place of many Edinburgh’s best cocktail waiters), the Negroni has not been popular here until recently. The Negroni recently made it onto the Going Up list in the Sunday Times Style section, which now makes me look a lot less original when I drink it. On the other hand, that hopefully means that it will become more widely available. I’m never quite sure whether a cocktail waiter really likes it when you teach them a new cocktail. These days the Negroni appears on a lot more cocktail menus than it used to.
The Negroni is a very adult drink: this is not a cocktail for people who like their drink to taste like alco pop. It packs big flavour, is a deep auburn in colour and at its best, has a heady aroma of orange. It’s perfect for relaxing after dinner. Making it is easy and fast. Let me tell you how.
- Sweet vermouth (for example, red Martini)
- A slice of orange zest
- Put ice in a cocktail shaker (or dispense with the extra washing up and put ice directly into a Old Fashioned or whisky glass).
- Add one part each of Campari, gin and vermouth.
- Shake, and pour over ice, if usinga shaker, stir thoroughly if using a glass.
- Add orange peel.
- Serve immedately.