Orson Welles and 007 Drank It. But Who Makes Dallas' Top Negroni?
When James Bond first sauntered up to the bar as the titular character in Ian Fleming's short story, “Risico,” he ordered a Negroni. Apparently, it's a bit strong apertif for day-to-day spy work, so he switched to Vodka martinis after that, but its legacy remains.
The cocktail, invented in 1919 in Florence, is one part gin, one part sweet vermouth, and one part Campari. Orson Welles described it in 1947: “The bitters are excellent for your liver, the gin is bad for you. They balance each other.”
No one likes a Negroni the first time they taste it. I didn't. The first thing you notice is what the Campari does to the aftertaste. It takes exactly halfway into the second round before you realize it's something special. In my circle of my friends, we use “Negroni” as an analogy for the idea that you have to work hard for anything worth your time.
It doesn't make many appearances on specialty menus locally (Beauty Bar's mats are sponsored by Campari, yet I've never seen Campari on the shelf), but here are three great versions around town. Y'know, just to give yourself an opportunity to taste something James Bond can't even handle.
J Black's Negroni
J Black's on Henderson makes a crushed ice Neighborhood Negroni with Bombay Sapphire. It's one of the rare spots in town that actually features the Negroni as a signature drink.
What's interesting is that they don't mix the drink, instead creating a very pretty presentation with the red Campari separated from the clear gin. But it's all flash and no substance, a cocktail that is hard to drink and is quickly watered as the gin melts the ice.
The Cedars Social Negroni
Cedars Social bartenders are secretive about their tricks. Unless you order their straight-up version at the bar, you're not going to see them light the orange peel on fire and let the oil drip into the freshly strained and potent drink.
As a rule, most Cedars cocktails are on the strong side, and this one is no exception. Pairing it with a seat on the couch in the Library Room (on the rare night that the room isn't reserved) can make one feel like they've actually read all the books on the shelves. You may also feel compelled to argue philosophy.
The Bolsa Negroni
Bolsa doesn't list the Negroni as a signature cocktail on its menu, but bartender Kyle Hilla will enthusiastically ask if you want it on the rocks or straight up with a friendly smile when you request it.
Bolsa's Negroni is best on the rocks — or, rather, rock. The lowball glass contains one giant ice cube that waters the drink perfectly over time. The trick to making a Negroni great is in managing the aftertaste burst it's famous for, and Bolsa's gin selection and large ice cube are the perfect constraints to this drink.