My second favorite cocktail and hands down the most complex and interesting of the three-ingredient cocktails is the Negroni. I had never heard of it (though it’s apparently more than a hundred years old having jumped the pond from Italy) in the mid aughts when Tony Bourdain ordered one after an event at the 92nd St. Y.
I’d been moderating of panel composed of him, Eric Ripert and Gabrielle Hamilton, during which I asked a lot of questions, and yet I did not ask him at the restaurant after, “Dude, what’s with the pink drink?” I sipped my martini quietly but made sure order a negroni next time around.
Indeed, it proved to be revelatory, what with bitter aromatic campari offset by the sweet vermouth and the heady gin. It has since found, of course, a regular rotation in the evening cocktail repertoire. (Traditionally, a negroni is equal parts gin, vermouth and Campari. I find this too sweet, and the Campari too strong so I like to dilute these two elixers with extra gin.)
A small gift relative to the greater gifts he brought to me with millions of others. It was we drank the last time I saw him. Gabrielle and her wife Ashley Merriman brought a big batch of Negroni’s to his memorial, bless them.
Nearly two years gone and still the missing is too great to look at head on. So instead, I look today ti Tony’s first book. I read Kitchen Confidential when it came out in 1999, when I was working with Thomas Keller who was kind of a Bourdain antithesis, with his precision, cleanliness, professionalism, and paradigm-shifiting food.
Curious about this Bourdain fellow, nevertheless, I picked up Bone In the Throat. I was only a few pages in, when I read a passage describing three cooks arguing about beurre blanc. Now this was how cooks talked to one another. When I read that passage I thought, this guy is the real deal.
I’m learning more and more how deep an imposter complex he had. He always told me he was happy to get as much out of this ride as possible before people wised up. But I didn’t really know how deep it went. And he just grew and grew. Not one gram of an imposter in that whole lanky frame. How we could all use his intelligence and his big fat mouth right now.
This Friday Cocktail is dedicated to Bourdain and The Negroni.
- 2 ounces gin
- 1 ounce sweet vermouth
- 1 ounce Campari
- 1 orange twist
- Combine the liquids in a glass, add ice and garnish with the orange twist.
- Now wasn't that easy?