The Right Type Of Ice To Use In Your Negroni

The Negroni is the choice cocktail for drink-savvy bar patrons all over the world. If you ask five bartenders what their favorite drink is, there's a very good chance the Negroni is going to make that list. The drink is spirit-forward, making it an excellent sipper, but its strong, bitter taste is balanced by bright orange citrus and rich botanicals.

Although it's an underhanded aspect of the art cocktail making, ice actually plays a crucial role in the Negroni – as it does with all cocktails — but the Negroni stands out even more in this regard. The bartender must strike a delicate balance, as there are many subtle but important decisions to make when it comes to crafting and finishing the drink. A quality Negroni is served with a large ice cube. That'll be either a cube or a sphere that's large enough to fill most of the glass. 

It's unusual to see a Negroni served with crushed ice or even medium-sized pieces unless the bar simply doesn't carry large ice. Some bars can get away with not having good ice, like a restaurant bar or a bar that doesn't specialize in cocktails. But a cocktail bar is nothing without good ice and if you're coughing up the cash for a quality drink, you should absolutely be judging the place on the quality of its ice.

Don't dilute your Negroni

Negronis are served with a big ice cube because, for one, it looks better, but functionally it's also keeping the drink cold while minimizing dilution. Because the Negroni is a sipper, you want the drink to maintain its bold flavor for as long as possible. There's a sweet spot, though. When you first make the drink, it isn't diluted enough – meaning it's going to come at you strong and harsh. 

But, give it a minute or two, and the drink will enter the "Goldilocks Zone." This is where the drink tastes the best because a little water has entered in and softened the harsher edges. From here, the drink is going to become watery and unpalatable. Some bartenders want to hit the "Goldilocks Zone" immediately, so they stir the drink in crushed ice first to get it exactly where they want it. They then sample the drink with a straw, decide it's perfect, and hand it to the customer. But now they're stuck with a ticking time bomb whose fuse has just been cut short. 

Nobody wants to down a Negroni quickly, and yet the bartender has forced their hand. Although you may be tempted to get the cocktail just right the second it gets to the customer (or whoever is drinking it), it's better to give the drink a longer window of opportunity. Pre-diluting is a common mistake people make when making a Negroni. Also, don't serve it in crushed ice. A large ice cube and a quick stir with your bar spoon is enough.