ICEBAR’s Tom Hunter eschews sugary confections for a cool Christmas classic

Photographs by Peter Kindersley. For Icebar usage only

Want to be a Master Cocktail Mixologist? These are the three rules you need to live by.

One: Always shake your cocktail facing towards you, not your guest. This way, if you do shake all that lovely alcohol out all over the place, it’ll land on you not your customer. People love free drinks, but this isn’t the way to serve them.

Two: Always double strain your cocktail when pouring. You know that strainer on the front of your classic shaker? That’s not enough on its own to stop ice getting into your drink and diluting it, so use a second finer meshed strainer as well and you’ll get a perfectly chilled, but not icy, cocktail every time.

Three: Always taste your cocktail while you’re mixing it. Trickier if it’s not your actual cocktail, of course, so what to do? A simple trick is to take a perfectly ordinary drinking straw and dip it into the top of the mix. Tap your finger swiftly and repeatedly over the other end and pressure will cause enough of the mix to rise up into the straw so you can take a quick taste.

Now you’ve got those under you belt, let’s talk about one of the timeless classics of any cocktail menu, and a great alternative to all the cloying and sweetly seasonal tipples that’ll be doing the rounds on Christmas Day.

I’m talking, of course, about a Negroni.

Allegedly first invented in Florence when Count Camillo Negroni demanded his usual favourite cocktail to be strengthened with gin rather than soda water (typical aristocracy) the classic Negroni cocktail is a three parts mix of Gin, Martini Rosso and Campari.

But seeing as Christmas is all about luxury, here’s a posher version, just for you.

Ancient Formula (Negroni)

25ml Carpano Antica Formula Red Vermouth
25ml Campari
30ml Gin (your choice)
Orange Garnish
Ice

First, add ice to a whisky glass to chill it, this is the one you’ll be drinking from by the way, and do the same for your mixing glass.

Add Vermouth, Campari and your choice of Gin with a squeeze of fresh orange and stir. Beefeater Gin is a good base for this cocktail, but it’s your choice. Just look for one that’ll compliment rather than confuse the main citrusy character of the drink. Also, for a slightly weaker drink use 25ml of gin rather than our suggested 30.

Stir rather than shake, and then double strain into your whisky glass (take time to put fresh ice in first).

Cut a slice of fresh orange peel and squeeze quickly over a flame held over your glass to ignite the citrus oils, rub the rim of your glass then add peel to garnish your drink.

Negoni’s are popular on the beach in Italy, but they’re also the perfect aperitif antidote to all the sweet and cloying drinks that tend to come out of the cabinet at Christmas time. Sophisticated, easy to make and with a refreshing citrusy bitterness that will cut through the holiday heaviness and leave you ready for seconds.

Cheers.

Words: Tom Hunter

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