When it comes to life’s simple pleasures, closing your laptop for the day as the sun begins to set and taking that first sip of a Negroni ranks pretty highly on our list at NIO Cocktails. The aperitivo, the ever-so-cool Italian answer to our own Happy Hour, is a laidback early evening affair where friends get together after work and share a drink before dinner later that evening. More often than not the iconic Negroni is the star of the show, accompanied by a sprawling charcuterie board layered with melt-in-the-mouth cured meats and crumbling hard cheeses.
While these Italian classics make an undisputedly good match with this bittersweet cocktail, we believe there is more to the Italian aperitivo hour than simply olives and charcuterie. If you’re looking to branch out beyond your reliable charcuterie board, read on to discover our own unexpected favourites to pair with our award-winning NIO Negroni and enjoy your very own authentic aperitivo moment.
1. French ham and pear crostini with truffle honey
Bruschettas piled high with tasty toppings are a staple in Italian bars as Aperitivo hour rolls in, not to mention a mainstay of any self respecting charcuterie board. While a beautiful cured ham like Jambon de Bayonne is a classic pairing with a Negroni for its depth of flavour, adding truffle infused olive oil or honey to this bar snack brings a beautiful earthy flavour that matches well with Campari’s herbal flavour notes. The sweeter, more delicate elements of pear, honey and ricotta then provide some very welcome balance to these heavyweight umami flavours, and accentuate some of the Negroni’s more complex, and easily missed tasting notes.
2. Corn cakes with balsamic tomato and peach salad with goats cheese
There are few flavour combinations more reminiscent of an Italian summer than balsamic vinegar, tomatoes and goats cheese: the mere mention alone evokes happy memories of sipping an early evening cocktail in a sunny Italian plaza, with a good book in tow. Paired with fresh peaches and corn cakes however - which are similar to blinis - these flavours take on an added sweetness and make a refreshing contrast with a Negroni. The saltiness of the goat's cheese stops the canapé from becoming overly sweet and pairs well with the bitter flavours of the Negroni. Ripe peaches and slightly tart balsamic vinegar also beautifully complement the rich vermouth. Ideal if you’re looking for a summer inspired pairing to enjoy alongside your aperitivo!
3. Crispy, spicy chickpeas
Chickpeas may not immediately spring to mind when we think of pre-dinner nibbles, but these moreish snacks courtesy of Jason Travi are certainly worth the forethought to prepare in advance. The fragrant, earthy aromas of cumin and coriander (and a few chilli flakes, if you’re after something a little punchy!) are an unexpectedly good match with the herbal flavours in Campari. They even highlight the delicate citrus spice in the Tanqueray Gin we use to craft our Negroni, which uses coriander seeds as one of its botanicals. Add a little fresh Maldon Sea Salt and black pepper to finish, and this small yet mighty snack is ready to pair with your freshly chilled Negroni.
4. Dark chocolate with sea salt
We all know a Negroni and savoury, umami flavours are a match made in heaven, but the more sweet toothed among you need not worry! If you’re after something a little sweeter while making your Negroni, perhaps as an early evening treat, why not opt for a luxurious dark chocolate with sea salt flakes? This bittersweet flavour combination brings out subtle, tart red fruit flavours in the red vermouth, while a touch of sea salt gives chocolate an extra depth of flavour to ensure it won’t be overpowered by Campari. Simply garnish your cocktail with a slice of fresh orange to marry the rich complex flavours of your dark chocolate with the bitter, herbal tasting notes of your Negroni - a truly elegant twist on your favourite pre-dinner classic.