As the summer hastens on, a man could be forgiven for clinging to whatever shreds of sunlight and warmth remain to him. The summer’s unique charms – its slower pace, its fewer clothes, the music of the cicadas – these are special. There is the sense that if one were so inclined he could do whatever he wanted in those few months of the year, though doing nothing might be just as fine.
For those blessed with a change of seasons, there is wistfulness shot through September. We make our way into autumn, and the greens become less vibrant, then disappear. Perhaps there is one final blast of color as leaves give up the ghost. You start waking up in the dark, going to work in the dark, and coming home in the dark. That’s not to say winter is unpleasant, but it is entirely different.
The end of summer is a good time for reflection – though as with anything bittersweet, balance is important. That’s why for the past few years, my drink of choice for the warm months and into early autumn has been the Negroni.
The Negroni is a strong, bitter and refreshing drink that’s perfect before dinner, but still quite agreeable in the absence of an impending meal. Most who are already familiar with the drink have no doubt come across Kingsley Amis’s opinion that it has that rare power of cheering you up, and nearly anyone who has tried one can attest to the truth of his assessment. The Negroni is a classic, and like any classic allows the individual to tinker until they find just the right interpretation to suit them. The essential formula is as follows:
- 1 oz. gin (dry – Tanqueray is fine, but try Plymouth)
- 1 oz. sweet vermouth (upgrade from your basic Martini & Rossi and try Carpano Antica)
- 1 oz. Campari (you can cut it with something like Aperol if your taste dictates, or adjust the ratio)
Build in a rocks glass with ice cubes. Stir until cold, then garnish with a twist of orange peel. No oranges? No matter. Some might call this heresy, but you may add just a dash of Cointreau – or skip the orange entirely.
It’s that easy. Balance, and a bite that refreshes in the heat. There are several variations on the drink to be found online and at your local bar, but the above will set your standard. From that, drink as you like.
Bonus Summer Cocktail: Gordon’s Cup
For those who would prefer to linger on the sweeter summer memories, my most recently-discovered warm-weather drink is the Gordon’s Cup. It has an intensely refreshing, sweet, but clean taste that might just leave you more hydrated than you were before you drank it. I haven’t done the research, but presumably five or six of these would not result in a hangover. You try it and let me know.
- 1/2 a small lime, cut into slices or wedges
- 3 slices of cucumber, a 1/2 inch thick
- 1 1/2 tablespoons of simple syrup
- 1/4 cup of gin (try the Hendrick’s)
- rocks glass filled with ice cubes
- salt and pepper
Add limes and cucumbers to shaker. Muddle severely to yield a juicy, pulpy mess. Add the gin. Add the syrup. Add the ice.
Shake three times. One, two, three – that’s all it needs. Then pour the whole thing into the rocks glass. Don’t strain it. Sprinkle salt and pepper on top and then you may write me a thank-you note.