What's Cool In Road Cycling

PEZ Suggests: The Perfect Apertif?

I have long-held that neither modern man, nor modern Pez-man, can live by sports drinks alone. Regular readers of PEZCycling will know I love my spirits, and enjoy sampling the local offerings at each and every bike race I attend. A few years ago I discovered the ‘Negroni’ – a classic Italian cocktail related (albeit distantly) to the martini – it’s the perfect cocktail to toast the holidays and celebrate a season… any season.

It’s tart, tangy, bitter and sweet – all at the same time. The negroni is an acquired taste for sure, but I’ve discovered it’s the ultimate sipping cocktail both for hot weather, and any time you need a quick trip back to Italy (even if it’s only lasts to the bottom of the glass). This drink is refined and stylish like so many great things Italian – bicycles, cars, fashion and shoes, women, and of course great bike races.

Moderation should always be observed, and allows one to enjoy a multitude of life’s pursuits and happiness.

The complete negroni Kit a la Pez requires everything you see here: Campari, gin, sweet vermouth, orange, ice and a shaker.

The ingredients are oh so European – which only adds to their appeal and harkens up images of James Bond meets Fausto Coppi – in a cocktail glass.

Depending on whose research you believe, the Negroni was invented sometime in the first half of the 20th century. Wikipedia.org states it’s origins as being: “invented in Florence, Italy in the early 1920s. It was named for Count Camillo Negroni, the man who invented it by asking a bartender to add gin to the Americano, his favorite drink. However, the word Negroni doesn’t appear in English cocktail guides before 1947, so the drink’s true origins are uncertain.”

My personalized version requires mashing 1/4 of a ripe orange into the glass first.

One thing is true – while an embarrassing number of North American bartenders have no idea which end of a negroni to light, you’ll be hard pressed to find a bar-man in Italy who won’t offer you a knowing nod and even suggest his own ‘version’ of the drink. It’s yet another element that makes this drink cool.

Here’s my recipe:
• 3 parts Gin
• 2 parts Sweet vermouth
• 1 part Campari
• 1 quarter fresh orange
• lots of ice
• shaker

Serve ‘em in a lowball tumbler or martini glass.
Garnish with a twist of orange peel.

When sipping in Italy, the chips and olives are a common accompaniment. Also note the tall pour – expect ’em super-sized when ordered in Italia.

Let’s Make This Bad Boy
1. I like to start by prepping the glass. Cut a quarter section from a ripe orange, I prefer the ‘navel’ variety, but also enjoy a blood orange on occasion. Remove the peel and muddle the whole section of fruit into the bottom of your glass – leave it in – pulp and all. I picked up this trick from a bartender at the Jewel bar in London and have made it my own.

2. Next, fill your shaker with ice – you want this baby ‘ice, ice baby’ cold – that’s ice cold for those of you who’ve never heard of Vanilla Ice.

3. Next, measure out the spirits, I start with the big pours and work my way down to the more delicate finer measures. So in goes your gin, followed by 2 parts of sweet vermouth, and finally the 1 part Campari. Remember that a ‘part’ can be any measure you choose – the key here is the relationship between the measured volumes of said spirits. I usually aim for a 2-3 ounce drink, so my measures are around 1/2 oz. Each.

4. Now that the spirits and ice are getting acquainted in your shaker, you can get things really going by giving it a good shake. You want the spirits to cool down quickly without melting too much ice (for fear of dilution!).

5. Pour.

6. Crown your latest achievement with a nice twist of orange peel – and serve!

The time to drink one is before dinner – as an apertif to stimulate the appetite – although my personal experience confirms that too many negronis will in fact have the opposite effect. I really like ‘em in the heat of summer, and nothing celebrates the finish of the Giro in Milan like a tall cool negroni. But they’re great all year round – and especially now that holiday season is upon us.

So instead of reaching for yet another malted-beverage or glass of wine, I recommend going off the front and pouring a round of negronis as the ice-breaker at your next family get together, Christmas party, or seasonal celebration. And if you don’t like it, hey you can always have a microbrew (as you’re absorbed by the pack.).

Don’t forget to toast your friends, neighbors, self and of course PEZ! And remember – drink responsibly – you’ve got a lot more riding ahead of you.

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