Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Finding Just the Right Mate for the Negroni

The deep red glow of a Negroni will entice you with its bittersweetness.

We received an urgent e-mail from a reader named Karina.
I was checking out your blog for a food pairing. I’m looking for types of food that would go well with a Negroni. Do you have any suggestions? We pick out a new cocktail each summer for our week at the Jersey Shore and Negroni is the winner this year (leaving in 1 week—yay).
A Negroni is an acquired taste. You either love the bittersweet bliss of Campari or despise it if the number of taste buds on your tongue are off the charts. Regardless of where you lie in the spectrum of love/hate, the Negroni has withstood the test of time and has reemerged as one of the must-have before-dinner cocktails in this new millennium (can we still say “new millennium”?). Historically ascribed to Count Camillo Negroni, who in 1919 Florence asked a bartender to exchange the club soda in his Americano for gin, the Negroni, when it comes to pairing with party food, can be a difficult child. After all, Campari always asserts itself in sometimes the smallest amounts. Here is our advice, dear Karina.
We always make our Negronis 1:1:1, sometimes on the rocks, sometimes up, sometimes with soda, sometimes with an orange twist as garnish. The one thing that holds true for all versions is that the flavor is unmistakable. You know when you’re sipping a Negroni. Because the flavor is so pronounced, you need food that will stand up to the strength of its flavors. Anything salty is a good place to start. Salumi, such as prosciutto or salami, or bacon hors d'oeuvres such as bacon-wrapped dates, would work nicely. If not, we recommend blue cheese on the thinnest wafer-like cracker. A Piedmont blue cheese, with hints of nutty sweetness to counteract its sharp, salty blueness, works ideally.

We also like making french fries, but french fries only work with a Negroni if you dip them in something salty. We make a mayonnaise with salt and dried tiny fish that we find in the local Asian market. This is a bit esoteric, but can steer you in another direction if you like salty fish such as sardines and anchovies, especially used as flavor enhancers. You can mix mayo with some anchovy paste to get the same effect. Tomato and pepper products such as ketchup and sriracha don’t enhance the Negroni that much unless you add, say, capers to the mix.

We hope this helps. We’re always experimenting with the Negroni, but really love the blue cheese with it. You can try other salty cheeses such as hunks of Romano or Parmesan, or make a cheese plate. It sounds traditional, but sometimes the less outré works best.

Up or on the rocks, the Negroni works both ways depending on your mood.

(adapted by Cocktail Buzz)

1 ounce gin (we like the light, citrusy notes in New Amsterdam for pairing)
1 ounce sweet vermouth (try Carpano Antica)
1 ounce Campari
orange twist, garnish

Stir in ice for 30 seconds. Strain into chilled glass (or a rocks-filled glass, if you prefer). Add garnish.


We just received this e-mail from Karina and her husband Norman:
Here’s a picture of our Negroni paired with delicious salty blue cheese, on an Adirondack chair at the beach! Thanks for the helpful advice.
(P.S. We used a bit less Campari than 1:1:1 because the flavor was a bit too strong, plus a little extra orange.)
Karina & Norman

What could be better than sitting on beach, watching the sun set, a Negroni in one hand, some blue cheese in the other, and the evening ahead of you.

First two photos © Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz
Thanks to Laura Bruskin at DeVries Public Relations for turning us on to New Amsterdam.

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