The classic Negroni is having a resurgence among young drinkers. Here’s what you can eat when sipping on one
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The warmer season is here: time for some great cocktail classics. Thinking of making (or enjoying) one yourself? Great! From last Monday, September 13, to September 19, bars, restaurants, and retailers worldwide participated in Negroni Week, to raise money for a range of charitable causes, from Covid-19 relief to hospitality support to racial and gender equality to the environment and much more.
To help celebrate the return of the hospitality venues we have missed so much, whilst giving back to important charitable causes and raising a Negroni glass with friends, Campari, Italy’s iconic red Aperitivo, and Imbibe Magazine invited me to one of Durban’s amazing bar/restaurants, AuthentiQ Bar to take part in this year's Negroni Week and enjoy a glass or two of the special cocktail. I’m not one to order a Negroni cocktail when out dining so this occasion was both interesting and enjoyable as I got to learn a lot about the classic cocktail and its food pairing.
The Negroni is possibly the quintessential cocktail, so it’s not surprising that while other mixed drinks or spirits get a day of honour, this one gets a whole week. The Negroni is a simple drink, with a surprisingly clear-cut history. It is based on a traditional Italian cocktail, the Americano. This deep red drink is considered an apéritif; an alcoholic beverage served before a meal to stimulate the appetite. Because of this, these tend to be on the dry side, rather than sweet.
The actual origins of the drink are unknown, and there is much debate as the surname Negroni traces back a long time and has both Italian and French branches. Nonetheless, most accounts root the drink in Northern Italy, sometime in the early 20th century. The most widely reported story is that it was first mixed in Florence in 1919 at Caffè Casoni. It was created due to a request by Count Camillo Regroni, who asked the bartender to boost his favourite drink, the Americano. The orange slice was added at the time to identify it as a different drink.
Pairing food with a Negroni.
What food do you pair with a Negroni? Because the cocktail has a distinct bitterness from the Campari, it needs strongly-flavoured foods, like salty, bacon-flavoured dishes, and bold cheeses.
Executive chef at AuthentiQ Bar, Theo Chiloane also shared that when we are looking at the Negroni itself, we are looking at something that is very fresh, and citrusy. So whenever you are having something like this, especially now when the season has changed and summer is making its appearance, a seafood dish can pair very perfectly with the cocktail as the dish is light enough to have its own presence and not overpower the citrus flavours of the cocktail. Chiloane said on the restaurant side they have their sweeter chicken which has a smokey undertone to it which also makes for the perfect pairing.
“It’s deboned, marinated in a peanut base and some light spices, but the smokiness is the highlight of it. So, whenever you consume the cocktail with the dish, the flavour of the smokiness combines with citrus. It is a pairing that actually pulls hand-in-hand, and that is one thing people don’t try to see most of the time. We also have our authentic grilled calamari tossed in a romesco sauce served with fried potatoes which goes well with the drink,” he said.
Have a sweet tooth? I also learned that a Negroni pairs well with dark chocolate and sea salt. This bittersweet flavour combination brings out subtle, tart red fruit flavours in the red vermouth, while a touch of sea salt gives the chocolate an extra depth of flavour to ensure it won’t be overpowered by Campari.