It’s an age old story: A guy walks into a bar and orders a stiff drink. But in this case, the guy was Count Negroni from Florence, Italy, and his request is the origin of what’s now a classic cocktail.
According to legend, sometime in the early 1900s Count Negroni asked a bartender to make him an Americano, but with gin instead of club soda. What resulted became his signature drink, and now the bitter blend of gin, Campari and sweet vermouth is a favorite aperitif not just among Italians.
Most Negronis are garnished with a twist of orange peel, but the bartenders at Bourbon & Branch in San Francisco give it an “explosive” end. Using a vegetable peeler they remove a thick strip of orange peel. While bending it towards the cocktail they hold a light match between the peel and the drink. The citrus oils will ignite for a split-second creating a spectacular finish. Be careful when doing this step but don’t be tempted to leave it out– the subtle orange flavor is worth the extra step.
To make a Negroni at home, shake 1 oz. each of gin, sweet vermouth and Campari in a cocktail shaker filled 2/3 full with ice. Strain into a martini glass, then garnish with the orange peel.