Saturday, April 2, 2011

Bottle-aged Negroni experiment

On New Year’s Eve, I began a little experiment to see what sort of effect, if any, temperature has on bottle-ageing negronis. I’ve been pleased with the results of the bottle of negroni I began ageing in August 2010 and quite like the mellowing effect time in bottle has on the majestic trinity of gin, vermouth and Campari

If you’re a stickler for due scientific procedure, point your browsers elsewhere. This was spur of the moment stuff and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t mix close to two litres of negroni simply to empty dregs of various bottles that were strewn about the house.

The gin component was largely Gordon’s with the remaining balance made up of Bombay and Gabriel Boudier saffron gin (I still don’t get that gin) while the vermouth mix was a blend of Antico Rosso and Antica Formula. Campari is Campari (part of me has always wanted to try switching the Campari for Bolognese Amaro Montenegro and seeing what happens, but that’s for another time). Half a litre of each spirit was poured into a bucket, mixed, and then carefully poured back into bottles of gin to be put away – one in the fridge, the other under the stairs where I keep my wine.

Four-ish months later and out they come, poured over ice and stirred vigorously to try and bring the “cellar” negroni to typical drinking temperature while cutting the drinks a little. Each was given about three minutes to rest before being looked at. I was actually surprised by how noticeable the differences between the two were.

Fridge-aged: Very floral and citrus-spiked aromas, suggesting a lighter drink. Not the case, the mouthfeel and texture of the drink still quite thick. Taste-wise, very similar to a typical negroni, although certainly more mellow.

Cellar-aged: Ah shay, indeed. Lots sweeter on the nose, it almost smells caramel-like. Similar rich mouth-feel as its fridge-aged sibling, but those bitter wormwood and gentian elements of the vermouth really sit up on the finish. I daresay the cellar-aged negroni also ends with a longer drag of flavour than the fridge-aged version.

My gut feeling is that, similar to wine, keeping things cool keeps things fresher while warmth hurries things up some (think cool fermentation versus a warm fermentation). Complexity is all good and well, but to me that fresh, invigorating kick of a negroni is one of the characteristics of the drink I really enjoy, so short of trying to find lighter vermouths (or experiment more with other spirits in place of the ol’ Punt e Mes), negronis left to age in a cooler temperature are looking like my bottle-conditioned gin, Campari and vermouth cocktail of choice.