Tim Cebula
May 27, 2008

So we’ve passed the Memorial Day milestone, marking the advent of grilling season, white shoes (if that’s your thing), and gin drinks.

For the longest time, I preferred that my drinks contain no more than two ingredients, one of them ice. A gin and tonic with a squeeze of lime was truly pushing the limit. It took a Negroni to show me that this austere approach had kept me from enjoying the sublime pleasure of a well mixed cocktail. Oh, the years I wasted.

Of course, some drinks should never be tarted up with more ingredients. It’s hard to beat the efficiency and simple elegance of a classic gin-and-vermouth martini, for instance. And fine brown liquors such as single-malt scotch, small-batch bourbon, and rare cognac deserve your undivided attention.

But Campari and sweet vermouth were made for mixing, each being a little extreme on its own. Consider the Negroni, made of equal parts Campari, sweet vermouth, and gin. Like the best cocktails, it transcends the sum of its parts. Vermouth balances the bitterness of Campari, while gin brings potency and a light juniper note to the mix. It’s an exceptionally refreshing drink.

Still, for some of you, the bitterness of Campari may be a deal breaker. In this case, try a French 75—gin, champagne, lemon juice, and sugar. Or perhaps a Tom Collins—gin, lemon juice, sugar, club soda. (If you order this at a bar, beware: They will top it with a maraschino cherry. It’s tradition, but so was foot binding. You’re within your rights to fling the garnish out the nearest open window.)

Indulge yourself with a bracing, ice-cold gin cocktail at some point this season. Even after Labor Day, if the weather calls for it. Just put away the white shoes.

 

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