There, I casually ordered Beau’s Lug Tread, while Sid and Jen opted for the Sazerac Negroni. Now, though no stranger to the name, I couldn’t place if I had ever had one. Nevertheless, it was love at first sip, generously offered by Sid.
It’s something about adulthood, that the complexity of certain flavours not typically enjoyed in youth, from microbeers and dark coffee to black licorice, hit you with a specific sort of new delight. For me, that’s exactly what the Campari in the Negroni does. Notwithstanding the gin or vermouth, this classic Italian aperitif with a red hue, originally derived from crushed insects, and a unique taste of herbs and fruits, is a great addition to any cocktail. Bitter yet sweet, the complexity of Campari, especially blended with these other botanical spirits, challenges palettes while the booze refreshes the soul.
So, then flash-forward to a few weeks ago, where Sid has once again become my gateway Negroni guy. Inviting me to join him and crew at Dillon’s Small Batch Distillers for The Juniper at Dillion’s: A Spectacle of Gin event (the name, of course, referencing the spirit’s key ingredient – juniper berries). Not only are Negroni(es?) on the menu, they’re cocktail guest of honour.
On the one hand you have cocktail masters Jason William Griffin of Toronto’s Bacchanal and Elise Sergerie of Montreal’s Bar George, battling it out in the finals of the Dillon’s 2018 Cocktail Cup, using Dillon’s strawberry gin to make, of course, their own respective takes on the Negroni. And on the other hand, you have the exciting release of the limited first batch of Dillon’s own bottled Negroni. Consisting of Dillon's own signature Dry Gin 7, its 100% Niagara grape sweet vermouth, and its very special take on a Campari style liqueur, Professor Dillon's aperitivo liqueur, hence the name The Professor's Negroni.
That’s right, a whole, personal Negroni in a bottle, all 18% of it. And given the temperature that day on the Dillon’s lot, the super chilled combination of herbs, botanicals, juniper, and sweet vermouth were exactly what the weather called for.
So now that it’s no longer confined to expert cocktail mixologists or European bistros, enjoy this Italian aperitif cocktail that dates back as far as 150 years tomorrow by pre-ordering a case from Dillon’s (note, if you can't find it on the online store, call the shop, if they're out, be patient, more will come!).
And if you want to attempt at home? Simply follow this quick and easy recipe:
1 oz Campari. 1 oz Gin. 1 oz Sweet vermouth. Garnish: Orange half-wheel. Glass: Rocks.