Thrilling balance: The negroni is has a super-cool backstory.
Thrilling balance: The negroni has a super-cool backstory.

Michael Harden

Anybody arguing the case for intelligent design might like to put forward the negroni as Exhibit A. Such is the perfection of this three-ingredient cocktail - its thrilling balance of bitter and sweet, its sensuously dark rosy hue, its equal appeal to strong women and strong men, its ability to cling to shreds of its innate urbanity, even when served in a plastic cup - that you would question whether it could have been brought into being by a mere mortal.

And you would be right to ask the question, because one of the many brilliant things about the negroni is that it has a super-cool story.

The story is that, in 1919, Count Negroni walked into his favourite bar in Florence. He was in the mood for something along the lines of an Americano (Campari, sweet vermouth and soda water), but needed something with more of a kick. The bartender obliged, substituting the soda water for gin and soon Firenze barflies were requesting ''an Americano in the style of Negroni''.

That our man Negroni also spent time in America, working as a cowboy and rodeo rider, just adds to the negroni's allure and secures its place in the cocktail high firmament.

Purists would have you believe there's only one way to make a negroni - equal parts gin, Campari and Italian vermouth, stirred over ice (no shaking!), then strained into a chilled glass and garnished with a twist of orange.

Still, such is the strength of this drink, the heady, knee-weakening love story between the botanically aromatic gin and the bitter, cartoon-red Campari, that it can handle a bit of rough and tumble. Ice, for starters. Nothing will be lost and, in summer, plenty will be gained.

Swap up the gin. There has never been a better time to experiment with the botanicals as gin fever sweeps the drinking world. There are also various substitutes for the vermouth - darker, more bitter liqueurs, such as Punt e Mes, Cynar, Averna and Montenegro that add a stronger, more adult allure to the mix.

There is some silly talk about tequila negronis and vodka negronis, but they should just accept that they are not negronis and go and find their own names.

Some things are not negotiable. Just ask the count.