In honour of Negroni Week, we look at the history of one of our favourite cocktails and chat to London Vermouth Company about their range and the secret to a perfect Negroni.
Transport yourself back to 1919. Your name’s Count Camillo Negroni and you’re wandering the streets of Florence, Italy, looking for a cocktail to take you into the evening. You pop into one of your many local haunts, Caffe Casoni, and ask bartender Fosco Scarselli for something a little stronger than your usual Americano. Without a second thought, he replaces the soda with gin and drops in a slice of orange to garnish.
The perfect balance of bitter, sweet, and aromatic tones, it was so popular that other patrons started asking for ‘Count Negroni’s drink’, and then before long just a ‘Negroni’. Little did you know that over 100 years later your name would become synonymous with one of the most popular cocktails of all time.
To find out more about the Negroni and their Vermouths, we got in touch with Ben, Andrew and Guy at London Verouth Company…
So, before we get into the magic of Negroni, what made you start London Vermouth Company?
We were out drinking cocktails and while sipping my ‘tini, I pondered ‘Strange, all these London gins, why no London Vermouth?’. Andrew remarked ‘We should make one!’…
We laughed as our expertise was in alcohol consumption, not creation. After a few more drinks and colourful conversation, we decided to be vermouth curators rather than creators - finding amazing talent and commissioning them to express their creativity in a bottle of vermouth. Thus the London Vermouth Company was born.
Talk us through your range and how each style of Vermouth should be best used?
No.1 Amber Limon
A stunning little amber-hued balancing act of South Downs Bacchus & 21 botanicals, starring Kentish rhubarb, zesty blood orange and Surrey honey.
Tasting Notes: No.1 Amber Limon vermouth’s aroma begins with delicate hints of gentian and cardamom, before bursts of orange peel and honey reveal. Initially your palate senses the sharpness of our rhubarb, lemon and grapefruit, giving way to the coriander, bay and angelica. Finally the honey appears and remains, underpinning this vermouth’s complex, bitter sweet finish.
No.2 Camille’s Red
A revealing, delicious and soul satisfying vermouth. Featuring a great Kentish Gamay, bonfire toffee, 23 elegant herbs & botanicals and a hint of Port.
Tasting Notes: A warming nose of citrus, treacle, and port that on the palate usher in tart wild cherry and high summer orange, all upheld by a delicate backbone of cigar smoke. No.2 Camille’s Red vermouth finishes with the earthiness of black pepper, the warmth of cloves and a little juniper kicker.
No.3 S.E. Dry
With South Downs Bacchus, five simple botanicals, Hampshire Bramleys, Essex gooseberries & Dulwich honey our No.3 S.E. Dry takes modern vermouth making to new mouth-watering levels.
Tasting Notes: No.3 S.E. Dry tickles the nose with a cardamom and fresh coriander flourish before slowly revealing a heart of citrus fruit and honeyed florals. On the palate we begin with the sour, gooseberry and bramley apple peel, before our No.3 S.E. Dry gently mellows as the coriander and honey notes arrive, finishing with herbaceous, fresh green accents and a hint of summery brightness.
All our vermouths have been designed so they can be drunk chilled and/or with ice. Our belief is that if a vermouth tastes amazing neat then it will always add quality notes to a cocktail and a mixer.
Onto the Negroni, which has had a bit of a moment over the last few years: what makes the perfect Negroni for you guys?
As our vermouth has nearly half the sugar of a traditional Turin
vermouth, we like to half the Campari to balance the bitter & sweet. We then like to double the vermouth to lengthen the drink and release more subtle flavours for a more nuanced experience. Heavily chilled ingredients & glasses give it added refreshment not forgetting a squeeze orange peel over the glass to release its oils to finish.
And what characteristics do No.2 Camille’s Red vermouth bring to the Edmunds Negroni?
It is well known that the Negroni is named after Count Camillo Negroni, who asked his barman to stiffen his Americano... What they don’t say is that the Count told barman, Fosco Scarselli to fortify his drink with gin in honour of London. Our vermouth builds on ‘the honour of London’ of the original Negroni by adding an elevated version of a traditional Red Vermouth by using the best quality ingredients and a combination of sophisticated flavours.
Finally for those who want to play at mixologists themselves, what other cocktails would you recommend trying with your Vermouths?
1934 Martini Cocktail
In 1934, England beat then world cup winners Italy at Highbury
3-2. In those days, the relatively new Dry Martini competed with the original more popular Martini Cocktail. This cocktail rose to popularity in the roaring twenties, it was sweeter as it used Old Tom Gin & Italian vermouth which at the time had ‘dainty pale gold tint‘, like our No.1 Amber Limon today. In the thirties, the Savoy used to make a 'Special' version with orange flowers which also feature in today's Amber Limon vermouth. So to make a 'Special' Martini Cocktail reminiscent of 1934 but with more English support, try adding 60ml No. 1 Amber Limon & 60ml Old Tom Gin with a dash of Angostura Limited's bitters into a mixing glass & stir vigorously over ice. Strain into a chilled coupe glass. Twist lemon peel zest side down over the glass to release oils then garnish.
Blood & Sand
The first record of the Blood & Sand is in the 1930 Savoy Cocktail book, named after the 1922 movie starring Rudolph Valentino as a love-torn matador. There is no mention of when it was invented, but Valentino's diary has him visiting the Savoy as a guest of the Guinnesses when honeymooning in 1923, so it was probably made in his honour then. Take 30ml London Vermouth Company No.2 Camille’s Red, 30ml Berry Bros. & Rudd Sherry Cask Matured Whisky (closest to 1920s taste), 10ml Peter F. Heering AB Cherry Brandy*, 60ml (Blood) Orange juice & shake
together over ice. Strain into a chilled Nick & Nora glass. Top with flamed orange peel & a frozen cherry. To flame orange peel, run a flame back & forth over the rind side of a wide slice of peel then squeeze it into the flame over the glass to send oils bursting into the drink. Finish by rubbing the peel around the rim.
*Love the fact it calls itself “A fashion accessory, adding
extravagance & civilization to the mix of some of the most legendary
cocktails.” Avoid substituting with kirsche as it doesn't work.