First time at The Ivy. Need a drink.
Sometimes I wonder how I haven’t been here before. And then I think there are so many places to go in London - The Ivy was never top of my list.
Today, though, it’s a fine occasion and a good excuse to check it out.
Ordering an unhurried aperitif at the bar. Mojito for him (Too too sweet). Negroni for me.
I started drinking Negronis when working with Italian clients - a perfect antidote to countless meetings in Milan. The great thing about Milan? Aperitivo. This is pre-dinner drinks during 'happy hour' served with free nibbles. Being Italian, nibbles are prosciutto and melon, sea-salted focaccia, hot pasta with black olives. It's a sneaky way to prevent binge-drinking. I wasn't complaining.
My first Negroni was horribly bitter on taste but it mellowed. By the third sip it was so right - bringing back memories of my first ever coffee. Now, I think the blood-orange stained drink is sundown in a glass, to be sipped and to be savoured.
It’s made with bitters, gin and red vermouth, but the trick to a good Negroni, I’ve learnt, is the vermouth. The Ivy use coffee-coloured Punt e Mes, a red vermouth from the makers of Fernet Branca (the main ingredient of Fergus Henderson's cocktail Dr Henderson).
“Dubonnet is too light,” the suave barman duly tells me, “Martini Rosso is factory-made and tastes it. Punt e Mes is the secret to a good Negroni.”
And here is the recipe of the drink that exudes the heat and urbanity of Milan. Campari-haters, turn away now.
The Ivy's Negroni
1 part Campari
1 part Bombay Sapphire
1 part Punt e Mes
Fill a large mixer glass full of ice.
Combine the Campari, Bombay Sapphire and Punt e Mes in the glass and stir well.
Strain into a short drinking glass filled with ice.
I like to top it with an orange wedge, which is a treat at the end as it bursts with alcohol on biting.