Orson Welles commented on the Negroni cocktail: "The bitters are excellent for your liver, the gin is bad for you. They balance each other." Negroni is a stunning gin cocktail aperitif, with equal measures of Gin, Vermouth and Campari. In West Kirby we are taking it further by aging it for twenty days in a brand new oak barrel. The idea behind this is to add complexity and even more depth to this classic cocktail, here is how we did it... James Robinson from Hi-Spirits very kindly gave us an oak barrel. When it arrived you could smell classic oak spices - two days on my desk and the whole office was filled with the wonderful aroma. I had already selected the Gin, No. 209 from San Francisco, one of my all time favorite gins. I had the Campari in hand, now I just needed the vermouth. Choosing the right vermouth is a key decision as it's such a vital component. I decided to go with an usual Spanish vermouth from Jerez by Gonzalez Byass called 'La Copa'. I chose No. 209 because it is a departure from the juniper-heavy gins we are used to and it has a beautifully aromatic nose of citrus and floral notes with a hint of spiciness, perfect for the Negroni cocktail. In the mouth, citrus comes first, predominantly lemon with hints of bitter orange, and other key Negroni flavour. Delicate floral notes, bergamot and coriander grow on the palate, there is a pepper-like warmth from the emerging cardamom and juniper. The finish is long and smooth with hints of spice. This really is perfect Negroni Gin. 'La Copa' Vermouth was only revived by Gonzalez Byass in early 2016 but uses an original recipe. It is made of Olorosso and Pedro Ximenez sherries as well as some well-established Soleras from the heart of Jerez. The blend is macerated together with a traditional recipe of botanicals and spices that give the wine classic vermouth flavors with wonderful undertones of sweet sherry and a depth of flavor unparalleled by other red Vermouth. I blended the ingredients to my own recipe (most call for equal parts of each Gin, Vermouth & Campari), but I opted for a slightly different approach, blending to taste. The finished drink was not made with equal parts! I then decanted the the cocktail (carefully) into the barrel and left it to age. It is important to me that I get the right amount of oak aging, so I had to face the terrible chore of tasting the cocktail every day to gauge how quickly it was taking on the oak and plumped for a twenty-day period. We have been counting down the days on social media, and at the time of writing this blog there are only two days left until it will be ready to serve. Pop in to West Kirby on Friday evening for a glass of our barrel-aged Negroni, served on ice with a twist of orange.