The Hampden Negroni, featuring Smith & Cross rum

The Hampden Negroni (yeah yeah, I did this one over ice)

Next week (June 2-8, 2014) is National Negroni Week, but being impatient, I’m sharing my favorite Negroni variation now. The Negroni is a very common and simple cocktail pattern, but one that offers a near infinite variety of combinations of ingredients that sing together. To quickly recap:

  • 1 part base spirit (gin, whiskey, rum, tequila, etc…)
  • 1 part sweet vermouth
  • 1 part bitter liqueur
The classic Negroni uses gin as the base spirit and Campari as the bitter liqueur. Substitute in a whiskey (e.g. Rye, Bourbon, Scotch) and you have a Boulevardier. Sub in rum and you’ve got a Right Hand. In fact, Seattle’s Canon has a Negroni Flight on their menu with all three variations (gin, rye, rum).

I enjoy nearly all distilled spirits, but rum in particular. Unsurprisingly then, my Negroni experiments usually start with a base of rum rather than gin. One day I came across a recipe online that called to me – The Kingston Negroni. It uses Smith & Cross rum, a Jamaican rum with high amounts of “funk”, technically called esters, but we’re being informal here. Smith and Cross has bold, fruity flavors that I savor. However, the Campari that the Kingston Negroni recipe calls for is also bold, and to my palate masks some of the Smith and Cross goodness.

What to do? In these situations I experiment with alternate spirits and ratios. My go-to Campari replacement in many recipes is GranClassico from Switzerland. In terms of overall intensity I find Gran Classico to be equal to Campari, however the flavors of Gran Classico are spread out over more notes. As for ingredient ratios, I deviated from the common 1:1:1, choosing instead to use 6:4:3, which Smith and Cross in the lead position, and the vermouth dialed down to reduce the overall sweetness. Made this way, it’s my go-to “happy drink” after a long day, and many of my friends have come to feel the same way.

While I’ve informally called this “My Kingston Negroni” to friends, I realized my recipe needed a unique name to distinguish itself from the somewhat established standard Kingston Negroni. I’ve dubbed my variation the Hampden Negroni, honoring the Hampden Estates Distillery from which Smith and Cross originates.

The Hampden Negroni
  • 1.5 oz Smith and Cross
  • 1 oz Gran Classico
  • .75 oz Carpano Antica Formula, or other red sweet vermouth
Stir over ice in mixing glass. Strain into chilled coupe or similar. Express and orange peel over the glass, drop the peel in as garnish.

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