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Best Negroni in Boston?

  • BobB Dec 3, 2008 12:18 PM

I'd never been much of a cocktail drinker, but I do like Campari. I noticed the Negroni on a bar menu last summer and tried it, and MAN am I hooked! What a great aperitif! So far though, the best I've had were in NYC - most of the ones I've been offered in Boston were wimpy pale watered-down versions served straight up in a martini glass. Who makes a classic on-the-rocks Negroni without needing me to instruct them every step of the way?

Extra points if they make it with Punt e Mes vermouth.

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  1. I'm not so sure that on-the-rocks is the classic; I ordered one at the Caffe Giacosa in Florence where they were purportedly invented, did not specify which way, and they served it to me up.

    You'd think it would be easy to get this drink right (1:1:1 is a pretty simple recipe, right?), but one of the banes of my cocktail existence is that it's done wrong far more often. The Buttery Bar-Bistro does a version that's particularly horrible. I've seen bartenders substitute orange liqueur for the sweet vermouth. Another barman knew it should be red, and improvised something with vodka and cherry juice (wish I remember where that happened).

    The wrong color is a dead giveaway. The most common error is the 90% gin version, made by bartenders who think every up cocktail should have dry-Martini-like proportions; the result is a nasty pink drink.

    Almost nobody makes it with Punt e Mes (few bars stock it anyway) unless you ask. I love that stuff, and think it improves the cocktail's color, too. I'm still waiting for Antica Formula to make its way to MA; that's another Carpano product, based on the original-original vermouth recipe, that is amazing, and makes a wonderful Negroni. Vya sweet vermouth is also very nice and hard to spot around town.

    You can get a reliably good one at the bars at Chez Henri, Green Street, Highland Kitchen, Marliave, No. 9 Park, Tremont 647, Toro, Silvertone, The Alchemist, Deep Ellum, Via Matta, Lucca, Prezza, The Independent, Drink, Eastern Standard, and Scampo. I haven't been to Craigie on Main, but I'm betting they'll do a good one there.

    8 Replies
    1. re: MC Slim JB

      I usually prefer my Negronis on the rocks as well.

      From MC's list, I've had excellent versions with Punt e Mes (my request) at Green Street and No 9.

      I also recently had a surprisingly good one at the Monday Club Bar at Upstairs on the Square, again with Punt e Mes.

      1. re: MC Slim JB

        Great list, thanks!

        Scanning the Web for Negroni recipes, I find that about half suggest serving it on the rocks and half straight up. I guess I consider on the rocks to be the "right" way since the earliest and best versions I've had were made that way. But if Caffe Giacosa (technically speaking, the successor to the original Bar Casoni where it was invented) serves it straight up these days that's a data point I'll have to keep in mind - not that it changes my own preference, but at least I won't look at bartenders who serve it up as being ignorant.

        1. re: MC Slim JB

          Drink has Carpano Antica, but it seems they keep it hush hush. Craigie has a housemade Antica replica that is outstanding.

          1. re: DoubleMan

            That replica is truly something fantastic.

            1. re: DoubleMan

              So much for keeping it hush-hush DoubleMan; this is why we can't have nice things!

            2. re: MC Slim JB

              What do you do when it is served improperly made? Drink it quietly, never to return? Send it back with notes on proper preparation? Dash it into the bartenders face? As a beginner cocktail quaffer, I am just wondering what is proper.

              1. re: tdaaa

                Typically don't dash it into the bartender's face.

                In my experience, a very good bartender will notice if you are nursing a drink or don't really care for it. They will offer to make you something else. This has happened for me at Eastern Standard, Green Street, and Highland Kitchen.

                If the barkeep is slammed or not so great at picking up the signals, and you know a drink is improperly made, you can simply let them know. It's a little harder than sending food back to the kitchen because presumably the barkeep's skill is what you are rejecting, but gather up your courage and do it. Really, a professional would want to know.

                1. re: yumyum

                  I had no idea there were so many Negroni fans around here.
                  I have no problem telling the bartender that I would prefer to have it remade. I usually add that I would prefer equal parts when I request a remake.

                  I recently had one where the bartender put Sloe Gin in it instead of Vermouth...blech. She was very apologetic and remade the drink and didn't charge me for it either.

                  I agree that they make a great Negroni at Scampo, if you are lucky maybe Kara will step behind the bar and make it for you, toasted orange peel and all.

            3. I have it on good authority that Frank Reardon makes the best Negroni in town. Ok, ok, it WAS Frank who said that, but I believe him. He's at the Beehive, but I'm not sure what days.

              If that's too vague a rec, I'd hit up Green Street and request the Punt e Mes.

              2 Replies
              1. re: yumyum

                I like Frank's bartending as a rule, and he's plenty entertaining, but he decanted the first Negroni he ever served me into an unchilled cocktail glass (at the bar at Anise, where he also told me his was the best in town). Many points off.

                1. re: MC Slim JB

                  Shocking. Did you razz him about it? Because if not, he'd have absolutely no respect for you. ;-) I like a barman who takes his craft seriously but not himself.

                  I had his Negroni first at Anise too. It was served straight-up, but in a properly chilled glass.

              2. Yee Haw.

                I'm about to go to Coda and was planning on ordering a Negroni. Will report tommorrow.

                Troquet makes a nice one.

                1. Not adding anything new to the other posts, just a vote for ESK's Negroni.

                  1. Scampo does a great Negroni. I asked the bartender why it was so good and her reply was, "Lydia likes everything to be done the way she wants it and the way she wants it is always very good." I'm paraphrasing because after three of these, it's pretty hard to remember the fine print of a converstation. Nonetheless, they were a nice ruby color, served straight up and well chilled.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: cannedmilkandfruitypebbles

                      CODA's Negroni was good, though a bit on the sweet side.

                      1. re: C. Hamster

                        Too much vermouth, not enough Campari? Or do you think they added some other element to sweeten it?

                        That's why I've never been a big cocktail drinker, most of them are far too sweet for my taste. Other than wines I stick mostly to single malts, cognacs, and the occasional iced vodka, but only the last of these really works as an aperitif, which is why I was so delighted to discover the Negroni.

                    2. I had a Negroni last night at Mortons in the Seaport Hotel. It wasn't very good. It was almost pink, a little too sweet, and they didn't give me the orange twist until the drink was almost gone. I didn't complain because I was heading to the Scotch even hosted by Mortons and was only there for the one drink. Nontheless, $14.44 for a Negroni should at least ensure it's made correctly.

                      1. The best negroni I have had in Boston was at Daedalus in Harvard Square.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: TheBrhino

                          I got one there once. The bartender was surprised, said they don't get ordered very often. It was properly made, tasted 1:1:1 (the twist was pre-twisted, but not a big deal).

                        2. A nice variation on the Negroni is the 1794 which substitutes rye whiskey for the gin.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: ponyboy

                            I really love the 1794, though the ratio (2:1:1) is a bit different than a negroni (1:1:1). A 1794 with Bittermens Mole Bitters is a remarkable drink.

                            1. re: DoubleMan

                              Interesting... A bartender at Bourbon & Branch (where I believe the drink was named) said it was "basically a rye negroni", which I took for equal parts. Anyway, good drink, good times.