For Negroni Week, Try a Coffee-Inflected Negroni
Happy Negroni week!
Happy Negroni week!
Now in its 10th year, Negroni week has become a kind of holiday of the cocktail world. Officially a project by the venerable booze-mag Imbibe designed to support charitable causes, it is also a great excuse to make and drink Negronis and Negroni variations — not that you needed an excuse.
I have made my feelings on the Negroni known in the past: Not only do I love the drink, in all its bittersweet complexity, I also love the simplicity of the three-part structure — bitter, sweet, and strong, often though not always in equal measure — which can be swapped and tweaked and substituted and expanded in infinite variations.
It is sometimes said that there is no such thing as a bad Negroni. That’s not quite true, but I agree with the underlying impulse: While there are certainly better and worse renditions, and I obviously have a strong preference, it’s a drink that rarely fails.
The Negroni is a drink you can obsess over. It’s also a drink you can casually free-pour on a weeknight after a long day at work. It cools in warm weather and warms you up when it’s cold. The Negroni is a drink for every season and every occasion. It’s never the wrong call.
But what’s really remarkable is how often easy variations succeed and even surprise. It’s the ultimate modular cocktail format.
All you have to do is take any gin (or frankly most any high-ish proof spirit), any sweet vermouth, and any bitter liqueur, then combine them over ice in equal proportions, or something close. No matter what you choose, you’ll find yourself with an earthy, bitter, not-too-sweet, not-too-strong cocktail that will delight and engage the senses. The best combinations are knockouts. The worst are still typically worth drinking.
There are other ways to modify the formula too, beyond simple substitution.
Take today’s drink, the Il Professore, from the Grand Hotel Vesuvio, in Naples, Italy, which I first encountered in Matt Hranek’s excellent little ode to the drink, The Negroni: A Love Affair With a Classic Cocktail. It’s as simple a riff as you could imagine — essentially just a Negroni with the addition of coffee liqueur. But it’s sublime.
I’ve adjusted the proportions somewhat and made some specific calls for the gin and sweet vermouth, but the drink will work in a more conventional equal parts structure as well.
The most difficult of the ingredients to select is the vermouth. As I have written before, Negroni newbies tend to vastly underrate the impact the choice of vermouth has on the drink. I quite like this with Cocchi Storico Vermouth di Torino, one of my always-on-rotation bottles of sweet vermouth and my go-to vermouth in a straightforward Negroni. It makes for the most classically Negroni-like drink.
But I also think Punt e Mes — a vermouth with a somewhat bitter, amaro-like backbone — works very well, especially if you want to tone down the sweetness. I’ll recommend the former, but if you have both bottles on hand, it’s worth trying both ways. (Even Negroni adaptations are adaptable.)
For the coffee liqueur, I prefer this with Galliano Ristretto, which — either fortunately or unfortunately, depending on the height of your bar shelves — comes in a ridiculously shaped and sized bottle that certainly stands out but doesn’t fit easily on many conventional shelves. However, you can use something as affordable and widely available as Kahlúa in that slot if that’s what you already have on hand.
The point is to coffee-ify your Negroni and then appreciate what a subtle yet significant difference a small amount of coffee liqueur can make.
This drink is different, of course, from the Cold Brew Negroni we made earlier this year, although they both stem from a similar idea. But that just proves the point about the Negroni format’s endless adaptability. Not only does the Negroni formula stand up to all sorts of substitution, it stands up to addition: Few cocktail structures are so versatile and so delicious. You will need far more than a single week to drink them all.
¼ ounce coffee liqueur (preferably Galliano Ristretto)
¾ ounce sweet vermouth (preferably Cocchi di Torino, or Punt e Mes for something more bitter)
¾ ounce Campari
1 ounce dry gin (preferably Beefeater)
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass.
Add ice, then stir briefly until chilled. (Don’t stir this one too much.)
Strain into a rocks glass over a large piece of ice.
Garnish with an orange peel and a few coffee beans.