The Negroni is one of the most famous classic cocktails, belonging to the same category as the Martini, Manhattan, Whiskey Sour, Mai Tai and Old Fashioned. It is so famous that it has its own charity week, the Negroni Week, in which bars all over the world make their own cocktails with Campari and donate a portion of the earnings they earn. Look-wise, the Negroni oozes charisma with its deep red color and the casual orange zest thrown in.
There is only one issue, if we may say so, that one-third of the Negroni is made up of the bitter Campari, the herbal liquor from Italy. Bitter being an acquired taste, is not really fun in the beginning. You need to get use to it like cigars or smoky whiskey. But once you get there, this cocktail will remain right up among your favorites.
Classic Negroni Recipe
- ⅔ oz Gin
- ⅔ oz Campari
- ⅔ oz Sweet vermouth For example, red Martini
- Mix all the ingredients with ice and pour into a glass three quarters full of ice cubes.
- Garnish with lemon zest.
Origins of Negroni
Before we talk about the individual ingredients, we should talk briefly about where the Negroni actually comes from. In contrast to many classic drinks, the origin is surprisingly well known. The Negroni is an offshoot of the older Americano cocktail, a drink made from Campari, red vermouth and soda, which originated in the Caffè Campari, the bar of the company’s founder Gaspare Campari. When one speaks of Negroni as “one of the oldest signature drinks in history“, the credit should actually go to Americano. Either way, both drinks are very closely linked to the bright red liquor.
In 1919, for the first time, a Negroni was mixed instead of an Americano. In the Caffè Casoni, a young count named Camillo Negroni ordered an Americano with gin instead of soda water, simply because he needed something stronger. Bartender Fosco Scarselli fulfilled his wish and the Negroni was born. Even 99 years later, it is mixed just as it was then, at most the ingredients themselves have changed (the Campari before 1970 is said to have a different flavor than the modern one).
The Perfect Negroni Ratio
The bottom line is that you don’t have to mix your drink according to the classic recipe. Furthermore, it depends a little on the ingredients used, from which spirits you want to make the Negroni. Do you have a more herbal or a mild, fruity gin? Is your vermouth rather sweet or does it also bring bitter notes? And of course, you can also use a different bitter liqueur than Campari. It is no longer a Negroni, but if it suits your tastes, then why not!
Always Campari? Maybe not..
Even if the drink is so inextricably linked to Campari, many bars tend to substitute it. The fact that Campari is particularly easy to replace with something else that is bitter. Virtually any other aperitif liqueur, Amaro or bitters can also be the basis for a Negroni-style cocktail. Of course: If you change more than one ingredient, at some point the whole thing won’t have as much to do with the original cocktail. At times, bartenders even use the mixing ratio of 1: 1: 1 as THE ratio for a classic Negroni.
The best gin for Negroni
We want to focus only on the classic Negroni. Providing a selection of gins for every conceivable twist with other bitter liqueurs would be impossible. However, even in the original version, the Negroni drink a complex little marvel that can be extremely influenced by the right gin. For the beginner’s version of Negroni with two parts gin instead of one, we recommend a classic gin that is not too juniper-heavy. Martin Miller’s Westbourne, Hoos London Gin or Mundus 45 go well in the Negroni. However, Tanqueray No. Ten is particularly pleasant.
If you mix the 1:1:1 version of the Negroni, on the other hand, you should take a rather strong gin, otherwise you risk that it simply fades away in the complex cocktail. Juniper Jack, Tanqueray London Dry, Beefeater or a Cotswolds are good choices, provided that you like juniper. It gets fresher with Malfy Gin or similar citrus-heavy distillates. Of course there is nothing to be said against taking a mild gin, but then in terms of taste you are better off with the Americano.
The right Vermouth
The right red vermouth is the ingredient that is the most difficult to philosophize about. Every reasonably drinkable one has a lot of its own notes, which are emphasized differently depending on the gin. But unlike gins, practically nobody has more than a sweet vermouth at home, if at all. If you are just getting into the world of Fortified Wines (e.g. vermouth), the best thing to do is to buy a Carpano Antica Formula vermouth. Not because it is really “the best”, but because it was the first vermouth of this kind and is often used as a benchmark for others.
Another Vermouth Drink: Try the Rob Roy Whisky and Vermouth
Some other examples of vermouth are brands such as Mancino (fruity / strong), Hoos (bitter / intense), Martini Riserva (mild / sweet) and Belshazzar (spicy-chocolate). It is not a good idea for storing in your house because the stuff gets stale much faster than “real” spirits. The Martini Riserva is particularly suitable for beginners who are looking for a pretty good, and easy to drink sweet vermouth. This applies to Negronis like all other drinks. But pay attention to the “Riserva”, which is different from the normal red martini vermouth, which we try to avoid.
Boulevardier is very close to the classic Negroni with just the gin replaced by bourbon.
If you switch Gin and vermouth with Scotch whiskey and Angostura bitters respectively, you get the Rob Roy.
Rye Whiskey replaces gin and sweet vermouth is substituted with dry vermouth. This makes the drink more spicy to counteract the herbs from Campari.
This one is just a Negroni with dry vermouth.
More Bitter Cocktail Recipes