Where bitter and sweet meets refreshing and bright
Many Negroni lovers hold the traditional Negroni recipe in the highest esteem, however even the most adoring Negroni drinker will concede there are occasions (albeit rare), when a classic Negroni is just a little too intense.
It is not only the occasion that is sometimes not rightly suited to a traditional Negroni but also our drinking partners—some of whom find its strength and bitterness a little overpowering.
Now, with the festive season dawning on us, let’s take the family luncheon as a prime example of an occasion that might easily be considered not quite as suitable. Christmas lunch brings together a crowd, and each will own their respective likes and dislikes, with some undoubtedly unable to stomach the grandeur of a Negroni in all its glory, particularly at such an early hour of the day.
Firstly, daytime drinking—a custom for one and all during the festive season, has the tendency to favour beverage selections of a lighter nature. And for those of us living in the lucky country, December 25 falls on one of the year’s hottest days.
As such, a lighter alternative might be more desirable when deliberating with what to wet one’s whistle, and rather than push our beloved Negroni entirely to the side, there are options available to retain familiar flavours, with little compromise, whilst even adding a touch of festive panache to proceedings!
With the addition of the basic ingredients of a sour—lemon juice and sweetener—a reformation of the bittersweet takes place, morphing into a sunset-coloured, herbal-noted, frothy invigorant.
The Negroni Sour is, as the name suggests, a Negroni made into a classic sour.
A mixture of base liquor, lemon or lime juice, a sweetener, and sometimes an egg white, sours can be traced back to Toronto in Canada as far back as 1856. Soon afterwards in 1962, the father of American mixology, Jerry Thomas, was first to note the sour in writing in his aptly named book, How to Mix Drinks (also known as The Bon Vivant’s Companion or The 1862 Bartenders Guide).
Incredibly versatile when it comes to the base liquor, sours can be mixed from whiskey, gin, rum, or more or less any spirit. Weighing in at around 27% ABV, a Negroni sour makes for a cocktail that is slightly lighter in alcohol, but still packs a lip-smacking flavour punch.
And of course we cannot ignore the egg, or more accurately the egg white. Raw egg white. Shaken with your sour.
An egg white will deliver a silky richness to your cocktail.
It is important to note egg whites do not impart any noticeable flavour. If you are vegan, or simply find the notion of raw egg in your cocktails just a little too much, Aquafaba (the residual liquid from cooking chickpeas, or indeed simply the liquid from a can), provides a suitable alternative. Do understand however, that if your eggs are fresh, you will live to tell this tale and pass on your new-found wisdom.
The marriage of Negroni and sour came about not all that long ago when Douglas Derrick, a bartender at Portland restaurant Ava Gene’s, combined two of bartending’s most poignant formulas. His vision to mute the bitterness traditionally known to Negroni was made possible by creamy egg white, which was itself balanced (to avoid suffocating the drink’s trademark bitterness), by the tart nature of lemon juice.
To bring extra depth to the equation, mix your Negroni Sour from a base of the 924 Negroni and balance out the bitterness and sourness with a little simple syrup, which can be adjusted to taste, given the existing sweetness already present from the Campari and red vermouth.
And so we present a Negroni that can be enjoyed by everybody (of suitable age), and at any time of the day. Saluti!