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The Imperial House

505 Kalmia Street, Bankers Hill

Few drinks admit of such variety as the bittersweet Negroni. Switch out the shot of gin for vodka and you have a Negroski; add bourbon instead of gin and you’re drinking a Boulevardier; order a Negroni with Aperol instead of Campari and you’ll be handed a Raultini.

But to bartender Mario Martinez’s mind, only two basic versions of the Negroni pass muster — up or on the rocks. Mixing and shaking things up behind the bar at the Imperial House, Martinez says he’ll serve it any way you want, but by default he serves it on the rocks.

“I’ve seen Negroni served in a martini glass, up,” he tells me. “Something about the Negroni, though, when I first started making them, screamed to me, ‘Rocks glass!’”

In fact, Martinez’s instincts led him back to the drink’s original style — itself a higher-octane derivative of an earlier classic after the Italian Count Negroni ordered his Americano with a shot of gin in it.

The “martini-ized” Negroni, as Martinez refers to Negroni served in a martini glass, makes the drink a faddish template for variations.

“When I first started learning about it and discovered it was a before-dinner cocktail, I decided to make it in a rocks glass,” he says. “I stuck with it. But I’ll make it up to the ladies because it looks daintier.”

Because of its assertive bitterness, Campari tends to hog the conversation in any drink it’s involved in, Martinez observes. So, while the Negroni is a simple 1-1-1 recipe, the margin of error allows for little less than pinpoint accuracy when it comes to the right balance.

“If you mess up the measurements, even by a little, you might as well start all over,” he says. “If you overload it with Campari, that’s the only flavor you’re going to get.”

Mario Martinez

In a cocktail shaker with ice, pour:

• 1 oz. Cinzano sweet vermouth

• 1 oz. Hendrick’s Gin

• 1 oz. Campari

Shake, pour into an ice-filled rocks glass (or a rockless martini glass if the ladies request it!), garnish with an orange twist.

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