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With over a dozen books, a few decades, and many, many cases of bottles under his belt, Gary Regan is one of the founders of modern mixology. He’s as active and opinionated and funny as ever in The Negroni, published earlier this year by 10 Speed Press. You will find his website rather entertaining:

It would take a wise man, like Gary, to undertake an entire volume to this one beverage, a beverage that you may never have heard of, or tried. Oh, you did try it? And you did not like it? Okay, let us reboot. Let us enjoy the wisdom of Gary.

A classic Negroni is equal parts gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari — plus a twist of orange. The first time try this, you will experience a “wow” factor, because all those components compete boldly for your flavor attention. And, if you just follow the classic recipe, but try different gins or vermouths, you will get very different cocktails. A standard gin, say Beefeaters, will provide one cocktail but some of the boutique gins will convey a very different experience because those gins are concocted with quite distinct botanical components.

An equal spread of flavor impact can be imparted by the vermouths you might employ.

And then there is the Campari. It’s an example of an Amari, a bitter Italian liqueur. There are Campari lovers and haters — for all kinds of reason which I will post about separately. Let’s be honest: Campari has outstanding pucker factor. So much, that many people hate the Negroni.

Which is odd, because by 2010-2012 the Negroni was all the rage in bars and was touted as the second or third most popular cocktail in the world.

What is happening? Good or great cocktail? Something awful? To be avoided at all cost?

Gary now comes to the rescue. He explains the background of the Negroni — an Italian noble who gambled, lost his money, and came to the US to be a cowboy. Then there is a waterfall of recipes where — Gary is wisely certain —that you will find a combination to delight you.

Gary suggests playing with both the proportions and components. Personally, I find Campari to be just too bitter. But, following Gary’s suggestions, I made the classic Negroni by proportion with Aperol instead of Campari. The result is sublime. [Aperol and Campari are now made by the same firm by the way]. I offered my wife a sip out of my glass. She kept the glass.The picture is at the end of this post.

As examples of exchanges, the vermouth can be replaced by sloe gin, the gin by prosecco, that Campari by any of the 30 or so bitter Italian liqueurs. There are an infinite number of Negroni siblings and Gary gives you an excellent sampling of the opportunities before you.

I tried a Negroni in Italy years ago. I took a sip. I made a face. The bartender laughed, I’m sure muttering something about “Americans.” It took this book, with its encouragement to just try things, that made me a Negroni fan. Well, an Aperol-instead-of-Campari Negroni fan. I’m sure that if you play with some combinations, you too will find the Negroni to be a favorite beverage. And, if you need some help, by all means consult with Gary in The Negroni.

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