the bitter end
back in the days of collective living in west philly, one of the all-time best housemates, mary maker, bought a bottle of campari for our house bar. perhaps it was for a special cake flavor, as she was wont to experiment with, or a brief flirtation with before-dinner cocktails - the reason isn't as important as the fact that, unlike every other form of alcohol to grace the shelves in our house, this one wasn't sucked down within moments of entering the building. and because i can't bear to throw out perfectly good booze, i've spent the last few years lugging the half full bottle of crimson, syrupy liquer from one rental to another. an ounce or two has been sipped, but for the most part it has stood quietly amongst the other, more popular inhabitants of our liquor cabinets.
campari, like most bitter flavors, is foreign to the average young drinker's palate. the flavor profile isn't one we're introduced to often as children, and when we are, we're generally conditioned to equate these tastes as "medicinal," or just "gross." while i still don't think a glass of straight campari is my tipple of choice, i've come to appreciate a dose of bitterness in my older age. maybe this can be attributed to the fabled every-7-year-taste-buds-changeover (when foods and flavors you used to despise are suddenly tolerable, or even enjoyable). or maybe it was my stint at the 40th street Capogiro, whose italian-centric liquor selection included amaro of many shades and strenghts that i cautiously sampled throughout my time working there. i found that when i really gave these strange new flavors a fighting chance, instead of just assuming i wouldn't like them, some of them were really quite wonderful.
and so lately, the ancient bottle of campari in my possession has been slowly but surely disappearing. finishing the bottle - which at one time seemed like an insurmountable feat - is now immanent, and when the last drop is gone, i just might buy another. the "negroni sodi," as i've dubbed it, is my new favorite apertif of choice: just the right amount of astringent to rev up the old appetite before dinner.
Negroni Sodi - a lovingly bastardized apertif
~makes 1 cocktail
1 ounce good quality gin (or, whatever, you can use crappy gin if you want to)
1/2 ounce dry vermouth
1/2 ounce campari
slice of orange (optional)
- fill a rocks glass full of ice cubes.
- pour the gin, then slowly add the vermouth and campari.
- top with cold seltzer water, and stir gently. garnish with an orange wedge if you want to go the extra mile.
- imbibe. but be prepared! this manner of cocktail really does stimulate your appetite, so if dinner isn't for another hour or two, have some little snacks on hand!
for fancier times, the gin/vermouth/campari can be topped with sparking wine - a negroni royale! i've always love the fact that champagne or sparking wine added to almost any beverage makes it a "royale." sound so much classier than "spritzer," don't you think?