On April 20, actor Stanley Tucci posted on Instagram a video of him mixing that classic aperitif cocktail the Negroni. It went viral, with comments pouring in (people are especially fervent about shaking vs. stirring!) and publications from Hollywood Reporter to the UK’s The Guardian covered it. Cited for being soothing in the midst of a global pandemic, the video, shot by Tucci’s wife (Emily Blunt’s sister Felicity), shows the soigné actor walking us through the making of a Negroni up. We asked three of Honolulu’s best bartenders to chime in on his performance. There’s one thing they all agree on—drink it how you like it!
Cocktail Artist® Mixologist (formerly Sky Waikiki)
I freaking love Stanley Tucci and I love that video—while I can see why some professional bartenders cringe at his technique, I enjoy it! First of all, he’s making a drink for his lady—that scores huge points in my book—and anyone who can whip up a Negroni in their home is impressive at any level.
His proportions, while not the classic 1:1:1, are along the lines of how I make a Negroni—a little gin heavy, especially if making with a monster vermouth like Carpano Antica, with its heavy orange and raisin notes, as Tucci does. For a softer gin like Plymouth—the one he uses in the video—I would use Dolin Rouge or Cocchi di Torino.
Now to the area of greatest contention—the shake! Most classically trained bartenders will bang on about shaking citrus-forward cocktails, like a daiquiri, and stirring spirit-forward cocktails, like a Negroni. But here’s the thing—Negronis are cloyingly sweet and need a good bit of ice and since he is using that beastly Antica as his vermouth, the drink would need a good amount of ice to dial down that heavy mouthfeel to make it more appealing. So shaking it and adding those little tiny bits of ice, that will quickly melt and dilute the drink further, in the cocktail glass sans ice is a great maneuver. Another way to look at it is that’s the how he likes to have his drink and if Stanley Tucci, or any guest for that matter, came into my bar and wanted a shaken Negroni, I would make the most delicious shaken Negroni I could possibly make.
Pint & Jigger
I love what Tucci did! Making cocktails is so personal and everyone has their own taste. Such a simple, three-ingredient cocktail and just because Tucci makes his Negroni in his preferred style, people go crazy. I am a firm believer in drinking any way that you like, and I really appreciate Tucci sharing his personal taste with us. It is great that his video is bringing attention to our craft industry.
There are so many points that craft bartenders are taking issue with. His choice of vermouth, his proportions, his method of mixing. Make it how you enjoy best. Every Tuesday at Pint and Jigger we as a bar team made every iteration of cocktails. For the Negroni we tried 12 different gins, 5 different vermouths and of course Campari. We tasted all different proportions. My business partners probably hate that we used so much product, but we wanted to be able to put the best tasting cocktails in front of our guests.
As Jim Beam Master Distiller, Fred Booker Noe III, says, “Drink it how you like it!” So if that is how Mr. Tucci likes his Negroni, he’s doing it right! While I love Mr. Tucci’s use of Plymouth Gin, with its perfect combination of juniper and citrus, and Carpano Antica, my go-to sweet vermouth for whiskey cocktails because of its vanilla forward aromatics, for the Negroni I prefer Beefeater—because its uniquely dry, bitter, orange notes meld effortlessly with Campari—and the lighter Noilly Prat.
Technique is key. In general, the rule, “If it contains citrus, shake it; if it contains only spirits, stir it,” has served me well. While both techniques chill and dilute a cocktail, shaking adds oxidation and texture from ice chips created by the ice tumbling in the shaker. Stirring eliminates these variables, creating a more seamless, silky cocktail.
While the Negroni is an aperitif cocktail, its bittersweet, yet spirit forward flavor profile makes it more of a sipper. I prefer serving the Negroni over a large format ice cube, with just the oil from an orange swath expressed over the top of the cocktail for aromatics and brightness, and the twist placed neatly on the rim.
And thank you to Stanley Tucci for sharing his take on a classic cocktail during this extraordinary time when the unparalleled reach of social media has become more relevant and imperative for social connection than ever before.