Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Death on the Riviera with a Negroni

Whilst Shetland is having the best summer anyone can seem to remember (sunnier than Cornwall in July, and no crowds on the beaches) Leicestershire is putting on an energy sapping display of grey clouds and what feels like near constant rain (the sun has come out occasionally, but mostly when I've been at work, and never for long).

Thank god then for books which conjure the idea of summer and sun when nature doesn't oblige. I've been enjoying Kay Plunkett-Hogge's 'Aperitivo' (it started off looking like something I didn't need, but quickly turned into such an engaging book that I couldn't go home without it), so much so that I'm almost convinced to try, again, to appreciate Campari. Kay has a lot to say about Campari generally, and almost as much to say about Negronis specifically.*

I might struggle to really enjoy Campari's distinctive bitterness, but plenty of other people love it. It's been around since 1860, but really became popular after 1915. If you do like it, it's a great thing to have around because it goes into a few classic cocktails, the Negroni (closely followed by the Spritz) being the best known. At its most basic a Negroni is equal amounts of Campari, Gin (I agree with Kay about going for a classic like Beefeater) and vermouth, though there are plenty of variations regarding the gin, the vermouth, and the precise percentages, for perfectionists to pursue.

John Bude is maybe a bit of an acquired taste too, he was moderately successful as a crime writer in his own life time, but has sold far more as part of the Classic Crime series than he did in his own lifetime. One reason for this might well be that so many of his books are based in real places (Sussex Downs, Lake District, Cornish Coast, and of course the Riviera) the place becomes almost an extra character, and undoubtedly increases the nostalgic appeal of his work.

'Death on the Riviera' was first published in 1952, and is easily my favourite Bude (so far). I think it's the dash of humour that I particularly like, most of it fairly gentle, that and the sense of a smoggy miserable London abandoned in favour of the sunny Riviera. I believe I remember Brandy being drunk more than anything else in this one, but I'm certain that Nesta Hedderwick's bohemian guests would have put away any amount of Campari, quite likely in Negroni form.

*Aperitivo has lots of variations on the gin/bitters/vermouth theme. Vermouth is really useful to have in the kitchen but should be used reasonably quickly (within a couple of weeks) once opened. There are plenty of prompts here to use it up - much better than finding a sadly oxidised bottle some months later.

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