Let me tell you a little bit about alcohol and me. Alcohol and me, we didn’t meet for the first time until I was 26, and it took me years to get past my initial prejudices and decide that alcohol can be a pretty OK guy. These days, I’m on good terms with alcohol, but we have a very cool and distant relationship. I don’t like being drunk, and I’m a lightweight drinker, so I usually only spend enough time with alcohol to have a single drink, occasionally two (if it’s good red wine, sometimes three… much to my inevitable regret). Since I don’t drink to become inebriated, that means I drink to enjoy the taste, which in turn means I only drink things I like. And I’m pretty picky, because I came into this whole alcohol business late.
Anyway, all of this is just a windy prelude to the fact that my favorite (non-Cabernet Savignon) drink doesn’t actually exist as a thing with a real name that any bartender would recognize. You see, I was at a bar in Red Hook over Thanksgiving and asked for a Pimm’s cup, because it seemed like a good choice for a cold night. The bartender apologized, because they didn’t have Pimm’s, but she offered to mix something that she promised would be a good substitute: “A negroni, but with Angostura instead of Campari.” Although we were speaking the same language, none of the nouns she had used had any meaning for me, so I just nodded mutely and gave her eight bucks in exchange for a cocktail.
It was delicious. So delicious that now I make my own on a somewhat regular basis. And since this drink doesn’t have a real name, I have made up my own. Behold: the Phony Negroni.
The world agrees with me that this is a great drink. Jaded veteran drinker Scott Sharkey was impressed when he tried it, and Frank Cifaldi said, “It’s manly. It makes me feel like a man. I want to shave now, or something.”
The drink itself is simplicity incarnate! You can make one yourself with ingredients you probably have around your home*. Here is what you do:
- Pour one measure of gin into a shaker along with some ice. I use Tanqueray, because I like it. Any decent gin will do, though. Flavor counts! Don’t use something cheap and gross. You don’t have to go top shelf or anything, but you definitely don’t want the taste of bad gin spoiling this.
- Pour one measure of sweet vermouth into the shaker. I use Noilly Pratt, because I have have no idea what the heck to look for in sweet vermouth, and this brand was inexpensive without being cheap, if you see what I mean. It tastes perfectly decent and I have no complaints.
- Shake five to eight dashes of Angostura into the mix. There are undoubtedly other brands of bitters available besides Angostura, but this is the brand that seems to be omnipresent in both stores and bars, and actually I really like the taste. So there you go.
- Shake vigorously for 10-15 seconds.
- Pour into a glass (with ice) and sip with unmitigated joy.
Congratulations, you have just recreated a fine and perfectly simple drink. One that is said to be “manly” without being all boisterous about it (in the way that, say, a single malt scotch served neat with a cigar is).
If anyone out there tries making this drink, I would be interested to hear your results and thoughts!
*If you are a lush. It’s cool, I won’t tell.