The Negroni Challenge

As many of my friends and regular readers will know, in addition to pale ale, IPA and fine pilsner,  I enjoy a good cocktail now and then. And like my buddy Tony Abou-Ganim, one of my regular tipples in that regard is a Negroni.

It’s not a hard drink to make, as I noted at World of Beer’s Facebook page earlier today. Take equal parts gin, Campari and sweet vermouth — add an extra half-part gin, if you wish — mix them over ice and serve as such, or strain neat into a cocktail glass. Aside from a dry martini or glass of good champagne or traditional lambic, there may be no better aperitif.

But not all gins are created equal, as Tony so ably pointed out in his Cheers Beverage Conference presentation earlier this year, and what might be a good one for a martini might not work so well in a Negroni, and what is ideal for a Negroni might fail in a G&T. So I decided to take four solid, reliable gins — Tanqueray, Martin Miller’s Westbourne Strength, Plymouth and Hendrick’s – and put them to the Negroni test, making each drink the exact same way, even down to the precise length of time spent stirring it over ice, and serving them all neat. To maintain temperature, I stuck each in the refrigerator as I made the others.

As I fully expected, the mild-mannered but quite delicious on its own Hendrick’s was utterly lost beneath the Campari and vermouth. The Miller’s, on the other hand, while a fine martini gin, was a tad too overpowering for the other ingredients. So that left just the Tanqueray and the Plymouth.

And the winner by a nose was…Tanqueray. There is just something about this gin that suits it ideally to the Negroni, integrating beautifully with all the other flavours as it does to form a cocktail much greater than the sum of the parts. Not that I would turn down a Plymouth Negroni, mind you — it’s quite delicious and I’m finishing it as I type — but it didn’t mix with the flavours of the Campari quite as well as did the Tanqueray and left a slight edge on the finish.

I may well repeat this later on this summer with different gins, and perhaps more tasters than simply myself. But for now let it be known that the judges at the Ultimate Cocktail Challenge were right, when ordering a Negroni, call for Tanqueray.

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