CocktailsFood & DrinkSpirits

Sweet and sour cocktail hour: your guide to making the perfect Negroni and White Russian

22 March, 2017 — by John Hayward0

In this new chapter in my regular guide to cocktails series, I’m moving away from the classics and giving you the skinny on two modern marvels: the Negroni and the White Russian.

These cocktails aren’t just tasty but also make you 80-90% cooler for drinking them. Each is vastly different in both their composition and flavour, I have opted for the sweet and sour route to palate heaven. Simply follow my guide and you will be the host with the most (drunk guests) at every one of your cocktail parties. I’m assuming you live in the 70s at this point.


Not every cocktail has to be a complex list of ingredients mixed to exacting and sometimes odd ratios with an innuendo for a name. Sometimes you just want a simple drink that is easy to make and beautifully refreshing. In a nutshell you want a Negroni. Three ingredients, minimum garnish and a simple stir sets you up for a sweet and sour treat.


Take one part gin, one part vermouth and one part Campari, stir over ice and serve in an orange rimmed (giggle) glass. Simplicity itself.


The quality of ingredients becomes more important the simpler the drink gets. Tanqueray is your best gin in this instance, it is strong but not overpowering in the botanicals. A sweet vermouth is generally favoured, with Carpano Antica Formula coming top of the pile. It took some experimenting to reach this conclusion with many nights worth of memories lost. For the Campari choose Campari. See? Simple.


There are a couple of nice variations to try, switching out the plain gin for rhubarb gin makes for a tasty treat. This is an idea shamelessly plundered from Jamie Oliver and luckily not garnished with ham hock or any other foolishness. Another less boozy and more soppy option is a Negroni Sbagliato. You simply switch out the gin for prosecco and are left with a refreshing drink that wouldn’t be out of place on a holiday breakfast menu.


White Russian

If the Negroni represents the sour then the White Russian is the sweet. I naturally first became a fan after watching The Big Lebowski for the first time at the cinema. Cue years of experimenting with different vodkas, milk and cream, and coffee liqueurs. In short, I have done the hard work so you don’t have to.


A White Russian is basically a dessert in a glass. To paraphrase Joey Tribiani, I mean, what’s not to like? Coffee, good. Cream, good. Vodka, good. Like any good dessert, this cocktail is not to be overindulged in, lest sickness ensue.

Traditionally 5 parts vodka to 2 parts Kahlua to 3 parts cream served over ice in an old-fashioned glass. No garnish, just alcoholic dairy goodness. At a push, milk can be used instead of cream but the ratio has to be increased slightly. If you don’t have any cream or milk, firstly, what are you thinking? Secondly, you can just make do with a Black Russian, which is 5 parts vodka to 2 parts Kahlua.


After hours of strenuous, liver breaking research I have found Grey Goose to be the king of White Russian vodkas. Kahlua is infinitely superior to Tia Maria which is not as strongly coffee flavoured.


If you can, you should immediately go bowling after imbibing several White Russians and perhaps take a slightly more chilled view of life. Drink sensibly because with great coolness comes great responsibility. Remember, the dude abides!

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