Most classic cocktails can be improved by tweaking the proportions, but not the Negroni. You can ask your bartender to pour the best gin for the drink (Beefeater, or Tanqueray if the bar is out of Beefeater) and if you're paying $13.00 for a Negroni, you may expect it to have Carpano Antica vermouth. However, it's hard to beat the classic proportion of equal parts gin, Campari, and sweet red vermouth.
I was mixing an exception to this rule, with Plymouth Gin, when my taste verifier, Simone, noted the Mayflower on the label. "Did the Pilgrims drink gin?" she asked. "I thought they had a religious ban on fun."
Just reading the bottle, it was obvious that the Pilgrims didn't drink Plymouth gin, as the label shows the Mayflower voyage date as 1620, and the establishment year of the Black Friar's Distillery as 1793. A little research revealed that the word "gin" was first published in 1623, three years after the Pilgrims departed for the New World. However, legend declares that some of these refugees holed up in the Black Friar's Monastery before ditching England altogether.
So what did the Pilgrims drink? Beer, which at that time was safer than water. That's a tradition we keep to today, as we honor the Pilgrims with plenty of beer during the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys games.
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Not everybody loves beer, so here's a light version of a Negroni, kind of a starter Negroni, made with an easygoing gin that Toby Maloney of Alchemy Consulting sold to gin-haters as a "citrus- and botanical-infused vodka". This drink mutes the strong taste of Campari, so it has only a pleasant hint of bitterness, which contrasts perfectly with the intentionally bland Puritan food on the Thanksgiving table.
- 1½ ounces Plymouth gin
- ¾ ounce Campari
- ¾ ounce Italian sweet vermouth
- Orange slice for garnish
-- Pour the gin, Campari, and vermouth over ice. Garnish with the orange slice