So, this writer walks into a bar….
No, it’s not the beginning of a joke. It’s what I did Tuesday night. Not a craft cocktail bar, not a fancy hotel bar, just an ordinary neighborhood bar on my way home. And I ordered what’s become my go-to recently: “A Negroni, please.”
“Certainly,” the bartender responded. “Would you like that with vodka or gin?”
That gave me a moment’s pause — no one has ever asked me that before!– and I stuttered out my response: “Gin, please.” As the bartender finished another order and then began mine — Campari, sweet vermouth, and gin –I thumbed out a quick post on Twitter:
The responses flew in before I’d even finished my drink. “RUN!” urged @inukena. “YES, RUN!” echoed @feeedme. Emboldened by alcohol, I finally asked the bartender: “So…do people really order Negronis with vodka?” He nodded solemnly. “Oh, yes. It’s the vodka generation. But personally, I prefer gin.” I polished off the rest of my drink and posted again:
But clearly I had touched a nerve. The responses continued to roll in over the next 24 hours:
@inukena: (Collective sigh of relief)
@RobertOSimonson: He still should never ask that question. With a Martini, I’d grudgingly accept it. A Negroni? No.
@LegendofMyself: you can choose between the Negroni which is with gin, the Negroski with dry vodka and the “wrong” Negroni with brut champagne
@orpheum: People order Negronis with vodka? Shame on them. Shame!
@raelinn_wine: VILE! pffff vodka in a negroni.
@nikki_d: Vodka in a negroni? Yikes!
@SpiritManager: But if you make it with Vodka, is it still a Negroni? Shouldn’t it have a different name?
All this anti-vodka vitriol! OK. So cranky contrarian that I am, I couldn’t help it. Last night, I returned the same bar, and asked the same bartender: “Negroni, please. But this time….I’ll try it with vodka.”
He did a double-take, but quickly recovered, and made my drink. As he stirred, I explained my reasoning: My preferred gin for a Negroni is Plymouth, because it’s soft and neutral, and not overly juniper-y. But isn’t that just a step removed from vodka anyway? And wouldn’t bitter Campari overwhelm the nuances in gin, anyhow?
He nodded, clearly placating the babbling guest, and set my drink down.
So how was it? The gin-based Negroni was much, much better than the vodka version. I can’t explain why. Frankly, it’s not logical, and the best I can offer is some lame excuse about the alchemy between the three ingredients that make up the cocktail.
But the bartender understood when he saw me push away the barely-touched drink, and repeated his line from the night before.
“Personally, I prefer gin.”
Me too, barkeep. Me too.