The $2 Negroni

Behold these three bottles. Campari, $24. Gin, $19. Vermouth, $6. At Total, the tab came to just under $50 for 2.25 liters, or roughly 76 ounces of booze. 

Your corner bar (maybe) buys the same ingredients, and once you make yourself comfortable they will combine a one-ounce shot of each, shake (or stir) vigorously (or not) and pour into a chilled cocktail glass. Voilà! It’s a Negroni, doh. A martini glass, perhaps, or a vaguely cone-shaped “vintage” glass of some sort. Nothing too big, mind you.

A proper cocktail is not a Big Gulp. And if you want yours on the rocks, just remember that the ice will melt as you sip your cocktail and dilute your drink. A few serious bars these days are using oversize chunks of ice (think tennis-ball) in a straight-sided glass. Not so sure about that.

More troubling than the oversize ice cubes is that more than a few bars are mixing their Negronis ahead of time so they can a) “age” the Negroni in a small barrel, b) make sure you, the customer, can’t watch the bartender short-pour the expensive Campari or observe how much (or little) cheap bar gin goes into the mix, c) upsell the damn cocktail automatically because “barrel-aged” sounds classier rather than upselling on the basis of a more expensive gin. Look, I’ve worked as a bartender; I know how easy it is to fudge.

So here’s what I’m going to do: combine these three bottles. No “aging” that rounds off the bright flavors of the Campari, either. I’ll have 2.25 liters, roughly 75 ounces of Negronis pre-mixed. I can keep the mix in glass containers in the fridge and won’t need to ice down a whole cocktail set-up. I can even pour a short snort if I want one after dinner or before bed. (Yes, Negronis make a terrific nightcap.)

Let’s recap. I have 75 ounces, and a proper Negroni is a 3-ounce pour. So 25 drinks for $50. In other words, I get my corner bar’s 3-ounce, $12 Negroni for the entirely reasonable price of $2.

Just think: you buy a really nice bottle of wine (Clos de Betz, maybe? $70. or Efeste Final Final, $30) and pour a 5-ounce glass for yourself at home. that’s $14 for the Betz, $6 for the Efeste). Order those same bottles at a restaurant, the price will be double (if you’re lucky).

Ah, but Ronald (you say), we know you buy your “house” wine at Rite Aid (Chilean merlot in a 3-liter box from Corbett Canyon). Roughly 100 ounces, roughly ten bucks. I can drink two 5-ounce glasses for a buck.