by Gino De Blasio | 7 Minute Read
Should you ever want to take a tour of London in a different way, you can. There is now the Negroni tour. A word two consonants away from getting you a thirteen match ban if you were a professional footballer, it has become the latest way to see the UK’s capital. Shame.
Joining the revelry of gin clubs, afternoon tea hotspots and other culinary tours, this fascination with italophile culture in the nation’s capital is like placing your keys into a bowl at a swingers party, and praying that you get the vespa owner and not the couple with the volvo.
“I’m not a gin drinker. I don’t like sweet vermouth. I don’t like Campari. But together they form a sinister yet lovely and inspired hell-broth. Like a marriage, it’s a true everlasting love. This is not a cheap date; this is not a one-night stand.” This was Anthony Bourdain speaking to Henry Jeffrey of the Guardian; Anthony obviously underestimates the allure of a Vespa.
In more recent times, the Negroni as many other Italian mixers, have inspired as much temptation as a man watching Nigella Lawson for the sole purpose of wanting to learn how to make a cheesecake.
We saw that in the summer of 2016, the Aperol Spritz was THE drink for the high street, the family barbecue and even your evening tipple. A cocktail which on average cost you, £1.80 to make. Budget assertions aside, the promised land of becoming an indoctrinated Italian is quite an homage to a nation that gets it so right when it comes to food and drink, and so wrong when it comes to politics.
Italiophilia, a word I didn’t even know existed until I wrote this piece, is a thing. From brown shoes, smart jackets, dark sunglasses – even when it rains, to Imperia pasta machines, deli counter guanciale and the quality of getting your espresso, the way they do it in Italy, all matters.
So why would this be any different when it comes to drink? You would never see this with an American cocktail. No one wants to be Austrian and no one thinks that life as a Danish pig farmer is glamorous; the need to want to be Italian is again being explored through the mechanism of alcohol.
Wine, for as much of the Italian varieties are sold, aren’t as revered as a French variety or New World, but when it comes to cocktails and mixers, there is something quite subservient and sinister in the making, especially from the land shaped like a boot. From Shoreditch in 2012 to the high street of major UK cities, Negroni and Aperol Spritz have made headlines, changed the way we drink on a night out and made us appreciate the words, Aperitivo and cicheti.
The romanticised notion that being Italian means a life of abject beauty, you can drive an Alfa Romeo without it breaking down or that your hair is always perfect is probably what spurs people to think, “wouldn’t it be nice if we were Italian.”
“The romanticised notion that being Italian means a life of abject beauty, you can drive an Alfa Romeo without it breaking down or that your hair is always perfect is probably what spurs people to think, “wouldn’t it be nice if we were Italian.”
Forget a political system which has ruined a country, the 47% youth unemployment, a health service that has been brought to it’s knees, a tax system that would make Al Capone look legitimate, an education system where confusion is the topic of the day, local councils which have a refuse problem, the Mafia, Camorra, ‘Ndrangheta, corrupt public officials that get to keep their jobs after being found guilty, a censored news state, a man who was convicted of underage sex crimes leading the nation, a national public corruption system that ranks it lower than Nigeria and Sudan, a judiciary system which takes three times longer on average than neighbouring nations, and as according to Luther Blissett in 1985, the country is “a difficult place to find Rice Krispies.”
Older than Italy, Campari is the quintessential Italian mixer. Invented in Novara, near Milan, from a mixture of fruit, bitter herbs and alcohol, it’s as Italian as Ferrari, as stylish as a Versace catwalk and as iconic as a Pink Floyd album cover. Its deep, dark red colour is striking and it’s taste is an epochal demonstration of where Italy gets it right, and when it does, it gets it spot on.
Ever wondered how to make a Negroni? It’s simple, it’s Campari, vermouth and dry gin. Esquire nail this essential cocktail, read here for more instructions, if you need them. The steadfast rule? Italians drink cocktails with something, so eat. Enjoy with cicheti or dessert or anything else that springs to mind; it should never be served by itself. That’s not the Italian way.
Like a David Gilmour solo, a Negroni or Aperol should be savoured. It should take longer than 20 minutes to drink, it should be accompanied with something, it should make you feel enlightened and better, spiritual even, and that is essentially, what Italian food and drink is all about.
Will drinking an Italian mixer make you Italian? That’s like saying will barbecuing my meat make me Texan. No, unfortunately, it won’t. But for a few minutes, it will make you feel like you are, and I guess, there is nothing wrong with that.
1) Nigella Lawson is apparently the personification of a perfect woman. She cares not about her physique, bakes cakes, eats whatever she wants and for some reason, is revered when she uses random Italian words in her food shows. She’s awfully posh and you can even buy T-shirts with her name printed on them.
2) The later, Italy’s version of a Spanish tapas where the focus is on charcuterie and fish prepared dishes more than your traditional Spanish meal boards.
3) Pink Floyd are a 1960’s prog rock band that found fame earlier on with Syd Barrett as the lead singer to then be replaced by David Gilmour. Put simply, Barrett personifies a romantic notion but is easily hyped too much, Waters and Gilmour turned the four piece band into global superstars singing about getting old at 25 and using striking vocal ranges that made their studio album Dark Side of the Moon stay in the charts for over 20 years.