Hello, Friends of Cocktails. Any time is a great time for a Negroni, but does the most popular cocktail in the world work as a hot cocktail too? Today we’re finding out by makint the Hot Negroni 2 ways: one as found in a book for hotel members in Berlin, and one as made by me - batched, balanced and elevated. So if you’re looking for the perfect concoction for winter gatherings, let’s start, beginning with how I found out about this cocktail!
The idea for this episode came to me when I was browsing through a book in a hotel lobby in Berlin, randomly finding a recipe for a Hot Negroni, with some nice winter spices added. It piqued my interest, but I also immediately saw some things I would change, but more on that after we try the cocktail. Ingredients and methods will be as they’re written in the book, so we’ll need gin, sweet vermouth, Campari, orange peel, cloves, ground ginger and nutmeg. It’s Cocktail Time!
Hot Buttered Rum
● 120mL · 4oz Gin
● 120mL · 4oz Sweet Vermouth
● 120mL · 4oz Campari
● 2 Strips Orange Peel
● Pinch of Ginger
● Pinch of Nutmeg
● Pinch of Cloves
We’ll pour all of the liquid ingredients into a small saucepan, giving everything a stir over very low heat, ensuring not to burn it. After it begins gently steaming, it's time to pour into thick glasses or mugs to serve. No mention of a garnish, so it’s ready to be enjoyed, let’s see what this cocktail is all about. Cheers!
It’s very boozy and spicy on the aroma, with almost a burn on the nose. Once you get past the booziness on the palate, it's very aromatic but overly bitter, with spices taking everything over the top - not the cozy feeling I'm looking for in a winter cocktail. As mentioned, even when first seeing the recipe I realized that the lack of dilution, which is especially important in hot cocktails, will be something that I would change in my recipe, and that doesn’t always mean just adding water.
I think we can add some more sweetness and acidity, for better balance, which works a bit different with hot drinks. For that same reason I’ll also slightly reduce the bitterness, but more about hot drinks and our flavor receptors when we reach the Bottom of The Glass. Also, when making a bigger batch there’s no need to individually measure all ingredients and spices - just heat it up and serve - so you’ll be able to use the cocktail calculators to adjust the volumes as you see fit.
So I tried to incorporate all those improvements, and a little something extra, into what I’m calling the Fire Negroni as an upgrade to the Hot Negroni! Alongside the classic 3 Negroni ingredients I’ll also be adding strawberry water for dilution, simple syrup, citric acid solution, dried orange peels, tonka bean, spruce twigs, and saline solution.
We’ve talked about the limitations and potential dangers of tonka beans when making Hot Buttered Rum, so if you can’t get it or don’t feel comfortable using it due to coumarin, just use a small amount of vanilla instead. As for the spruce twigs, they will add resinous, herbaceous, and subtly citrusy notes, and keep in mind that while most pine trees are edible, as long as you avoid Ponderosa pines, Norfolk pines, and Pacific yew. If you’re unsure, it’s better to skip this ingredient - and I’d avoid clipping your Christmas tree if you got it at a tree farm, pesticides are often used on trees there.
Before we go over the amounts and the method of preparation for the Fire Negroni we’ll make it in a sous vide, but let’s first go over how to make Strawberry Water.
● 200g Strawberries
● 200g Warm Water
● 0.8g Pectinex
Start with an equal amount of strawberries and warm water - based on the season it’s no surprise they’re frozen and defrosted strawberries. Now place everything in a blender and blend on high speed for about 30 seconds or until all the strawberries are nicely blended, then add the pectinex and blend again. This is a specialty enzyme typically used in juice manufacturing, because that breaks down pectin structure, making it very easy to get clear fruit juices.
Once it’s nicely mixed in it will need to wait about 30 minutes to separate the solids from the juice so leave to sit on the side, then we can filter it through a rinsed coffee filter. If the liquid coming through is still a bit cloudy at first, wait for the solids to create an additional filter. Once you see clear liquid coming through just move the filter and re-filter the first part. I know this version of the hot Negroni takes a bit more prep and gear, but trust me, it’s worth it.
Now you just need to get your sous vide ready, along with a sous vide bag. Let’s make the Fire Negroni!
● 240mL · 8oz Tanqueray No 10
● 240mL · 8oz 9diDante Inferno Sweet Vermouth
● 180mL · 6oz Campari
● 240mL · 8oz Strawberry Water
● 80mL · 2.66oz Simple Syrup
● 30mL · 1oz 6% Citric Acid Solution
● 40g Spruce Twigs
● 4g Dried Orange Peel
● 1g Tonka Bean
● 20 drops 20% Saline Solution
To release as much flavor from the tonka bean as possible, crush it with a mortar and pestle before adding it to the sous vide bag along with the other ingredients. Keep in mind that this recipe is tailored to the European spruce, which grows in front of our studio, so results may vary if you’re using other varieties. Now seal the bag with a double seal and place in the sous vide bath at 55°C or 130°F for 1 hour, giving the bag a shake once or twice during this time.
After 1 hour, place the bag in cold water to chill a bit, cut open the bag and strain through a cloth filter. Then all you need to do is to pour it into a bottle, add a label and it's ready for use. An added bonus is that this can also be enjoyed as a cold cocktail, poured straight from a chilled bottle, but it might be quite sweet served like that, so if you’d like to keep the option of drinking it hot and cold, it might be better to add simple syrup separately when heating our Fire Negroni.
This one is just for hot cocktails so let’s heat it up. Into a small saucepan add as much as you need, depending on the size of your company, and your glasses. Place it on a medium heat and bring up to the desired temperature, although I’d suggest taking it off the heat when you see the first signs of steaming. Then pour the cocktails into a double-walled glass to prevent burns, but still keeping an elegant look, or use a glass or mug with a handle.
For garnish I’m adding a spruce twig for a festive touch - beautiful. Share with loved ones and let’s take a sip, cheers! The cocktail has just the right mix of spices and herbs on the aroma. You can immediately taste the Negroni vibe, but it’s different because of the heat. Bitterness wants to stand out but is nicely balanced by syrup and the fact that we used less Campari. The spruce adds a subtle resinous taste, giving it a festive feel. A wonderful festive aperitivo.
With that you’ve made it to the Bottom of The Glass, and today I have an interesting fact about our taste receptors when enjoying hot drinks. So, scientists at the Common Cold Centre at Cardiff University - which is a real thing apparently - decided to find out why hot drinks make you feel better than cold, when you’re feeling sick.
It turns out it’s because the taste receptor that picks up sweet, bitter and umami tastes sends a stronger electrical signal to the brain when food or drink is warmer, and those sweet drinks make you feel cozy and good. Plus, according to an interesting experiment, holding a hot drink can even make you friendlier, and you’ll see other people as having a ‘warmer’ personality. So consider checking out this Hot Buttered Rum to be an even better Friend of Cocktails. See you next week, cheers!