Bartender pouring a cocktail at Artem Bar

Bartender’s Choice: The Negroni

Never before have we witnessed such an extraordinary moment in the hospitality industry such as we do now.

When I arrived at The Dylan in Amsterdam during the Summer of 2019, it was after tending bar and creating seasonal craft cocktails in New York City for many years. Now, almost a year later, I am writing this article for The Dylan Mag, firmly at home and regrettably away from my “office” behind the bar at OCCO. What can I say? It was absolutely prudent to act early in order to safeguard the health and wellbeing of all from Covid-19. But I must admit that I miss shaking drinks for our guests to sip and enjoy. So I thought it would be wholly appropriate to showcase in this space a classic cocktail recipe, which anyone can make at home—no matter where home may be.

I’ve always been drawn to the Negroni, partly for its eye-catching ruby red glow, and equally because it can be enjoyed before and after dinner. It’s also a bit of a paradox: simple to put together, but shockingly complex in its expression. A classic Negroni calls for equal parts (30ml) of London Dry Gin, Sweet Vermouth, and Campari. Stirred over ice until nicely chilled, and garnished with a generous orange twist. But that’s only a starting point. One of my favorite riffs on this classic is to substitute the Gin with an earthy and smokey mezcal that we keep behind the bar, such as Del Maguey. The Negroni can wear many hats—you can substitute Bourbon, Rum, and Cognac for the Gin—and it will work just as well. Every time. A perfect drink for mixing at home when your options might be limited.

Another reason this cocktail is on my mind is because at The Dylan right now there is a wooden barrel behind the bar. In anticipation for Spring, I started experimenting with a Negroni recipe that showcases Holland’s national spirit: Jenever. Taking a traditional product like Boompjes Jonge Jenever, and mixing it with a very fine sweet vermouth such as Carpano Antica Formula, and of course classic Campari, this blend has been aging for weeks in that very barrel. The Wood with the help of Time adds a crucial finishing character, rounding out all the sharp edges of the spirits, and creating a little liquid harmony. It’s easy to forget but sometimes, in the cocktail world, patience is a virtue.

So together we all wait. And while we do, I look forward to seeing that ruby red Barrel-Aged Dutch Negroni in the hands of our guests after this episode is far behind us.

– Artem Derkatch