Celebrity videos released during the COVID crisis tend to range from delightful (Ina Garten making an industrial-sized Cosmopolitan) to cringe-worthy (Gal Gadot’s Imagine singalong). And then there are the ones that spark enthusiastic discussions and debates … at least from a small subset of the viewing public. A prime example? Stanley Tucci’s video tutorial about how to make a Negroni, which went viral on Instagram last week.
Now, we’ll start off by saying that Stanley Tucci is a national treasure, and we’d gladly watch him do just about anything on-camera. Indeed, his Negroni video made for some very entertaining viewing … and it also inspired plenty of professional bartenders to share their thoughts about Tucci’s technique and choice of ingredients. We chatted with 9 such bartenders, who offered up a wide range of reactions, proving that there’s no such thing as a total consensus in the beverage world — and that’s what makes it so much fun.
“The only thing he has right are the general ingredients.”
According to senior bartender Greig Leach of Lemaire Restaurant in Richmond, Virginia, Tucci correctly names the crucial ingredients of a Negroni: gin, sweet vermouth, Campari, and orange. And that, in Leach’s estimation, is the extent of Tucci’s Negroni-making accuracy.
“The only thing he has right are the general ingredients. This cocktail should never, ever be shaken! Ever. I do agree [that] it should be served up, and I do agree that the better the sweet vermouth, the better the cocktail. I am not a gin drinker, but using vodka [instead of gin, as Tucci suggests] is not a viable alternative. Instead, switch the clear liquor to mezcal for a unique variation, or use a good rye whiskey [to make] a Boulevardier. But I love this cocktail with gin, and again, I don’t like gin,” Leach tells The Manual.
“He’s charming and the person got an alcoholic beverage. Mission accomplished.”
As a performer himself, stand-up comedian and NYC bartender Colum Tyrrell (who works behind the stick at Fool’s Gold and Royale) gives Tucci major credit for his engaging style. “He did everything right except the drink. He’s charming and the person [following his tutorial] got an alcoholic beverage. Mission accomplished. The ratios and the techniques are all wrong, but who cares? Making a drink at home doesn’t need to be perfect. Even in a bar, it doesn’t need to be perfect. He [could] probably get a job at [any] Irish bar in New York City. Would the drinks be great? No! Would he be popular? Hell yeah! Because he has big biceps and flirts his dick off. Bartender basics,” Tyrrell insists.
“If it tastes good, then you’re doing it right!“
Brooklyn-based bartender and Monkey 47 brand ambassador Lacy Hawkins respects Tucci’s enthusiasm for and core knowledge of the Negroni, and that’s why she has no problem with the method that he displays in the video: “I have just one hard rule when it comes to bartending at home: If it tastes good, then you’re doing it right! And by that rule, I would happily drink Stanley’s Negroni. In fact, he seems to know a lot about the Negroni cocktail. He mentions that the drink can be served up or over ice, that he prefers his shaken rather than stirred, that a good sweet vermouth is key, and that Campari comes from Milan. I also really like my Negroni garnished with an orange slice, because after the cocktail is gone, you get to finish with a delightful Negroni-soaked orange fruit snack. Brilliant!”
“His comment on using a good sweet vermouth is important.”
In the video, Tucci emphasizes the importance of using a high-quality sweet vermouth in your Negroni, and bartender Matthew Ballinger of Apotheke in NYC wholeheartedly agrees with this priority. “[Tucci’s] comment on using a good sweet vermouth is important. Bad sweet vermouths are a waste and will ruin the taste. The one he is using is Antica Formula, which is, in my opinion, the best,” says Ballinger.
“Negroni up instead of on the rocks? Well done!”
Many bartenders choose to serve Negronis over ice … which makes sense, considering that the drink is popularly considered a warm-weather libation. However, Tucci very boldly chooses to serve his Negroni straight up, a decision that meets with Sipsmith London master distiller Jared Brown’s approval. “Negroni up instead of on the rocks? Well done! It is not nearly as well-known [a service style for Negronis], but can be at least as good as a Negroni on the rocks. [I give Tucci] points for that,” Brown claims.
“STANLEY, PLEASE DO NOT USE YOUR HANDS TO SCOOP ICE.”
Spork Pittsburgh general manager Sean Enright’s biggest qualm with Tucci’s Negroni video? “STANLEY, PLEASE DO NOT USE YOUR HANDS TO SCOOP ICE. Use an ice scoop, or a shaker tin … like the one you have in your hands. Along those same lines, let’s keep the ice out of our drink until all the ingredients have been added. It will keep the ice from melting and diluting the cocktail too much while you deliver appropriate dialogue.”
“I say: Get it together, Tucci!”
General manager and sommelier Lilly DeForest Campbell of The Milling Room in NYC is proud to call herself a Stanley Tucci fan … but she thoroughly objects to most of his Negroni-related moves.
“I love Stanley Tucci very dearly, and there were some very positive aspects to this video. First, great ingredients, I love Plymouth gin in a Negroni (or any gin cocktail, really). I also want to encourage everyone to experiment with making their favorite cocktails at home during this trying time. We all need the sense of comfort and familiarity one gets by sipping their preferred beverage. That being said, he just shook a Negroni instead of stirring it and then squeezed in an orange slice instead of [using] a twist [of orange peel]. Honestly, I’m very disappointed in him now. Especially after he got all high and mighty about the vermouth! Don’t get me wrong, good vermouth is definitely going to improve your cocktail game, but not everyone has access to high-end vermouth, and if all you can get is Martini & Rossi, your Negroni will still be delicious. So I say: Get it together, Tucci!” DeForest Campbell states.
“Mr. Tucci probably hasn’t tended bar professionally since at least the early ‘90s.”
Like his wife Lilly, veteran NYC bartender and sommelier Greg DeForest Campbell (most recently of Corkbuzz) has a few issues with Tucci’s overall technique, and he suggests that Tucci’s ideas about cocktail prep might be a bit dated.
“I am usually #tuccigang for real, and though I agree with my lovely wife that it is offensive to shake a Negroni, Mr. Tucci probably hasn’t tended bar professionally since at least the early ‘90s. When I started bartending, back in the last century, we used to shake everything. I mean, people looked at me cross-eyed when I stirred gin martinis, so let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. I will say that if he wants to fly in the face of tradition and serve his Negroni up, he should chill his damn coupe! I’ll also note that I learned [to make] Negronis with a 1-1-1 ratio [of gin to vermouth to Campari], though people I respect, including Lilly, tend to disagree. And the orange wedge is possibly another holdover from an early time, but just … no. To end in a positive manner, it is clear that Stanley Tucci was already more than a little tipsy before he started filming, so kudos to him. Way to day-drink with the rest of us,” DeForest Campbell tells The Manual.
“Stanley Tucci’s fame allows him to do almost anything, including making a shaken Negroni, which goes against pretty much all bar rules and Italian traditions.”
Michele Alfonso, the head bartender at Esca in NYC and a mixology instructor at the New York Bartending School, points out that Tucci’s Negroni recipe flies directly in the face of established Italian cocktail traditions … but he cautions viewers against condemning Tucci too harshly, insisting that playing around with different ingredients and methods is a major benefit of DIY bartending:
“Stanley Tucci’s fame allows him to do almost anything, including making a shaken Negroni, which goes against pretty much all bar rules and Italian traditions, go viral. However, it’s understandable that this [particular] moment in history, when everyone’s favorite bars are out of reach, is inspiring people to experiment with their preferred cocktails and make them their own.”
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