It all started as I was making my second Negroni of the evening in between flips of a big ol' steak on the grill. I had flipped the meat, put the lid back on my trusty Weber, started the timer, and ran upstairs to mix up another round.
The first Negroni, I made with my usual measurements of 40 ml Gin, 20 ml Campari, and 20 ml Sweet Vermouth. For years I was on team "Equal Parts", but that was just me being stubborn and I now I find that more gin and less of the other stuff makes a better 'groni.
With not much time left on the timer (I like a pretty rare steak), I went for it without grabbing my small measuring cup. I simply topped off the old glass with ice, eyeballed a heavy pour of gin, and then stained the juniper liquid with the two remaining red ingredients. I tossed in an orange slice and used it to jostle everything around and ran back downstairs to check on my New York Strip with two fresh Negronis in hand.
My wife took a sip of hers and immediately asked what I did differently-- in a good way. Now, I am a full supporter of the scientific fact that a second drink usually tastes better than the first one, and that may have been the case here. So we tried the experiment again the next day and then a few more days after that in between our usual Martini hour. And for us, the eyeballed Negroni is far and away better than a measured one.
I think there are a few reasons for this phenomenon:
It is faster
This, in and of itself, is the cornerstone of an aperitif. They should be quick to make and quick to drink.
No dirtied bar tools
A second foundational point of an aperitif should be cleanliness to go with the speed. Filling a glass with ice, pouring your ingredients, and stirring with an orange slice keeps everything clean. No need for tools at all.
There is probably more gin...
...and that is my favorite ingredient in a Negroni or any cocktail that contains mother's ruin for that matter. There is also possibly less Campari and Sweet Vermouth, and for me, that is a good thing. I could probably use a scale and figure the exact measurements my muscle memory is pouring but then watching the scale would change my pour.
You can't mess it up
I don't think an educated ratio minded pour of the three ingredients involved could make a bad drink. As long as the gin is equal to or greater than the Campari and Sweet Vermouth, you're in business.
For all these reasons I don't measure long drinks like highballs or gin and tonics anymore. Nor do I measure Old Fashioneds, Mojitos, or easy three-ingredient brown and stirred cocktails. If I am cooking, I don't measure out my salt and pepper additions either. Once you know and understand your ingredients, it is okay to get a little loose.
Still, for a Martini, I pull out all the measuring equipment to hit that perfect 3.7 parts gin to 1 part vermouth ratio every single time.
Do you still measure everything at home? Maybe try winging it with a Negroni next time. Go with your gut. It will be great!
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