Saturday, December 17, 2022

The Negroni


Esquire - "Esquire's Best New Restaurants in America, 2022"

I noticed it while procrastinating during my senior year of college.

I was flipping through the October 1987 issue of Esquire when I spotted an article titled “Oddballs.” The piece raised a toast to three “off the beaten track” cocktails that an adventurous reader might be inclined to seek out— “drinks for those times when ‘the usual’ is just too damned usual.”

The first of the three? The negroni.

The negroni is ubiquitous at restaurants now—even overexposed, appearing in a rainbow of hues that depart from the traditional Atomic Fireball red—so it might surprise you to learn that in the same year that gave us Oliver Stone’s Wall Street and Tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire of the Vanities, the average Esquire reader viewed it as an oddity. I, too, was something of an oddball in 1987, so I sought out this Italian cocktail with the diligence of a stalker, especially once I moved to Manhattan to write for magazines.

But even then, bartenders tended to serve me a blank stare if I tried to order it.

(Or they botched it altogether, sidestepping the negroni’s tripartite alchemy and simply pouring me a watery bowl of Campari with a splash of gin.) I eventually tasted a proper negroni at a midtown restaurant called Palio, and it was love at first sip: sweet, bitter, floral, layered with secrets. Gradually I watched the negroni move from the margins to the mainstream. Yes, it’s lovely now that I can order a decent one wherever I go, but I can’t help feeling a different sort of tripartite alchemy— equal parts nostalgia, bemusement, and whiplash. —J. G.

The Return of the Martini (Apr 2022)

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