It’s negroni o’clock and time for these pages to be accessorised with a drink recipe (or two).
My maternal grandmother taught me all about the beauty of cocktail hour. She saw its as an important punctuation of time – a toast to the end of the day and a welcome segue into dinner. To Selma, cocktail hour was sacrosanct.
Through my formative years, wherever and whenever we were together, as 6pm approached we gathered with our drink of choice. A sparking and sweet virgin concoction for me, something ice cold and with an impressive kick in a beautiful glass for her, accompanied by some well curated snacks. We clinked glasses while sharing the stories and antics of our day. Following on from cocktail hour, dinner (even in its simplest form) seemed a more amenable assembly around the table, rather than a chaotic race to the eating finish line. Selma knew what was up. She blazed the path for us all.
I wish I had inherited my Grandmother’s discipline in basically everything. Sadly, cocktail hour is not as regular around here as I would like – life just seems to get in the way. But I do toast Selma at all my gatherings and at every Supper Club, where the welcome cocktails are as essential as dessert.
Luckily for me, the wonderful Daniele Ziaco is the secret weapon behind the cocktails at all but my first Supper Club, making the last one our 10th together. For each event, Daniele creates the all important welcome drinks to compliment the seasonal menu and start the night right. We typically have two batch made impeccably garnished choices (plus a virgin option) ready to pour and serve as we greet each guest. One of the drinks on hand is always a Negroni.
If you too want to follow in Selma’s footsteps and finesse your own cocktail hour, you can start here with this delectable cocktail and maybe pair it with a little green goddess dip or a miso marmite swirl.
Note: for the Supper Club, Daniele used a fig leaf simple syrup that I made with leaves foraged from my neighbours tree. I have included the recipe at the bottom, but if you can’t get your hands on any fig leaves or are not that way inclined, a teaspoon of fig jam works equally as well.
Ice does make a difference. Try to use the biggest cubes available and always add more at the end after mixing – the colder the drink, the better it tastes and counter intuitively, more big ice cubes keeps the temperature lower for longer, slowing the melting and any diluting.
For the Negroni
- 25ml Gin (I prefer Hayman’s London Dry here)
- 25ml Campari
- 25ml Antica Formula Vermouth
- 7.5ml fig syrup (recipe below) or 1 tsp fig jam
For the Simple Syrup
- 8 fresh fig leaves
- 500g white caster sugar
- 250ml water
If you are feeling particularly fancy, chill your tumbler.
Stir everything together with ice and the flat end of a bar spoon or similar implement and garnish with either a fig slice or fig leaf when they are in season or an orange twist. Top up with a couple of extra ice cubes.
Again, if you are on the fancy train you can invest in some dehydrated orange slices for extra extra.
To make the syrup:
Simple syrup is used in many cocktails and is wonderful to have on hand. I also use this to flavour simple sponge cakes and loaf cakes in place of a standard drizzle added to icings for extra oomph. This will keep in the fridge for a month or so or even longer.
8 fresh fig leaves
500g white caster sugar
Rinse your fig leaves. If they are a little tacky, heat them up in a low oven (130C/250F) for 5-10 minutes until they are dry and a little crisp but not brown.
Prepare the syrup by placing the sugar and the water in a medium pan and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for a few minutes until it’s completely dissolved. Add the fig leaves and allow to steep overnight. Transfer into a clean, sterile bottle and store in the fridge. I keep my leaves in the syrup for at least a week for added figgyness but feel free to take them out after a day or two for less intensity.
Have you made this dish?
Let me know what you think, share your efforts and any tweaks you made to the recipe on Instagram, don’t forget to tag #BuildingFeasts or email me on email@example.com