If you needed another excuse to grab a drink this Negroni Week, look no further.
Who doesn’t love a good Negroni on a midsummer evening (or any evening for that matter)? The aperitivo cocktail which is said to have originated in Florence back in 1919, is not just popular with the discerning cocktail lover but has also been in the limelight in recent years for its ability to stand out in a crowd.
The deep and delicious red hue of this dance between Campari, Vermouth, and Gin has cocktail lovers like us swooning on most days. And given that it’s Negroni Week, we’re only too happy to find more excuses to get our hands on it.
In the last week, several legends have been giving us Negroni goals. Like our friend Welcome To My Bar with this delectable looking serve.
But hold on, there’s a twist in this tale. We have just discovered that you can now drink your Negroni and eat it too! That’s right, we have come across a legendary soft serve Negroni. Meet William Pravda, the man behind this new and exciting serve. We were introduced to William by another legend and one half of Bar Back Collective, Arijit Bose. Ari’s introduction to William went a little like this: “William f***ing Pravda is from the Czech Republic, the land that mass produces brilliant Bartenders. He was skilled at the TOP bar country in the world i.e London until a sense of adventure took over and he landed up in Singapore, running the bar operations and beverage programme at Bread Street Kitchen & Bar. This man loves Negronis and Pilsner Urquell.”
Needless to say, with an introduction like that, we couldn’t wait to share William’s story on how and why he came up with the soft serve Negroni, which we can’t wait to get our hands on. Read on, try the recipe at home, and if you want to share feedback or have questions, find William on @softservenegroni.
“It all happened about 6 or 7 years ago as we were walking with my friends after long day at work at the Ten Mill Lane bar in Cardiff. After a heavy breakfast, we passed by the soft serve Ice cream window. I was of course only joking then when I said aloud “One day I’d like to make soft serve ice cream what will be a cocktail. The full strength of alcohol and real taste of cocktail.” It sounded like an impossible thing as we all just started to laugh and we all know it is hardly possible to make alcohol freeze.
So I kept this idea in my mind hoping that one day I will be able to test and use soft serve ice cream machine to create it. Years later I end up taking care of beverage program for Gordon Ramsay Bread Street Kitchen & Bar in Singapore. It was 2 years ago that our chef came with ice to get soft serve ice cream machine for our pastry. That was my “this is it” moment. This was my chance put my dream to test and have one of my favourite cocktails served as ice cream.
My research started in the middle of 2016 and I tried to learn how the ice cream machine works. I got sceptical feedback from our chefs in London as well as from creators of the ice cream machine and was told that it will be extremely difficult to make alcohol behave like a different substance and serve it smooth, even though I did a lot of reading about slush machines and how cocktails are served from it, about sugar levels in several types of alcohol as well as liqueurs, how stabilizers and gelatine work. It slowly started to make sense in my head. Before the end of 2016 I was all set with complicated calculations and was theoretically ready to create it.
To answer a question I usually get asked, why the Negroni? As my favourite cocktail is Negroni and it is a great representation of a boozy drink without additional juices – this was my first choice.
On the other hand, Negroni week 2017 was in about 6 months from that moment so I decided to launch it in June 2017. It made perfect sense.
I received massive help from Giancarlo Manchino – Creator of Manchino vermouth who shared with me his secret of how much of sugar contains his sweet vermouth. I also got tremendous support from our friends at Proof & Co. who patiently let me test the product over and over again. For Campari I had to use a unique technology borrowed from another celebrity chef restaurant and found out how much of sugar it contains… trust me, you would be really surprised so I understand why they keep it as a sort of secret! Now was time to find out about sugar level in gin… and it still contains some.
I have always shared a great relationship with German gin brand Monkey 47 and I consider the product as one of the most complex gins on the market with a unique taste and careful balance of all botanicals. And alcohol content of 47% was just perfect in my calculations to keep strong taste of Negroni in the ice cream form. Sugar level and alcohol level are really important when you create ice cream. I have learned about molecule shock when certain molecules are going through the freezing point as fast as they go in an ice cream machine. Sweet molecules lose their strength as well as molecules of colours… on the other hand, alcohol feels unchanged and therefore my first attempts turned out to be really strong – until I found a way how to balance it all.
Soft serves created in the machine, normally need stabilizers so with cooperation of our kitchen team I found stabilizers that would form the right base. Another challenge was to create the texture of ice cream so I did this using lecithin and milk (dairy powder). The base stabilizer is made out of dairy powder but when used in combination with the alcohol, it needs a bit help.
To be honest, the original idea was to make the Soft Serve Negroni completely dairy free but unfortunately, I was running out of time and trial opportunities before I launch it to the world. But one day I’m sure one of the skilled bartenders around the world will find the way.
I would like to share the recipe with all bar community and let anyone feel free to make it. Who knows… maybe soon we will see a Soft Serve Old Fashioned also!
FUN FACT: I failed the chemistry exams twice in high school!
The Soft Serve Negroni:
180g Stab 2000
400g Base stabiliser B50 with no flavouring
100g Milk powder
(200ml cream – that depends on consistency and how mild you’d like to have it)
3000ml water – soft water works the best
Products I have used due to alcohol and sugar content in each of the ingredients:
1300ml Mancino Rosso
600ml Gran Classico
1350ml Monkey 47 (careful with using different Gin types as ABV and sugar level and taste profile might not work nicely with it. All around 45% – 47% is perfect)
Heat all up to maximum 48*C
- Start with 2000ml of water and 600g sugar – slowly add 200g of base Stabiliser B50
- On the side, mix together rest of sugar with the rest of stabiliser B50 + Lecithin and milk powder + the Stab 2000
- When stage 1 is dissolved, add all alcohol parts while stirring
- Remember to keep temperature under 48*C and above 40*C
- Slowly mix in powder from step 2 with the last 1000ml of water
- Once the substance becomes a bit thick in consistency, and tastes bitter-sweet . add red food colouring
Colour molecules exposed to extreme cold in short time in the soft serve machine lose their strength. Even if in the pot it looks red it will come out as pink. So keep that in mind.
- Alcohol molecules get stronger on the taste-buds when exposed to extreme cold shock so don’t worry if you feel it’s not strong enough at this stage.
- If the alcohol taste feels too strong at this stage, you can reduce it using cream. All depends on a place/event and how the consumer likes the strength of the Negroni usually
- Put all substances into the freezer for a few hours to cool down to less than 10*C
- Add part of it in the machine and let settle and cool down – the resulting soft serve texture depends on the temperature in the machine and what temperature the ice cream comes out
- Ideal temperature for the mixture area on the top of the machine is ideally around 5.5 to 6*C and it has to go through at least -10*C when cooling in tubes (serving temperature is lower than -8.5*C)– every machine has a different setting so you need to figure that out
After around 40min of the mixture in the machine is when the final version is ready to taste. Smaller taste adjustments in taste can be made on future trials.
NOTE: Do not judge the strength of the Soft Serve after first try since there is bound to be a shock to the system at first. Our brain needs to get used to the fact that something which looks sweet and is supposed to taste sweet is actually bitter, and has the kick of alcohol. The palate needs coaxing. ”
We are going to tell you this. If the bartending geek in you hasn’t started prepping already, we’re not sure what you’re waiting for. And if the cocktail fiend in you isn’t already making calls to all your favourite bartenders and getting this sorted out for yourself, you need to get moving.
Try this, share this, and remember to drop William a line on @softservenegroni . We’re off to get served.
(If you’re in Singapore, the soft serve Negroni is available at Bread Street Kitchen & Bar until 10th June, 2018)
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