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Negroni: Best Cocktail Recipe + 5 Delicious Variations

The Negroni is one of the truly classic cocktails, still relevant and enjoyed by cocktail connoisseurs over a century after its invention. In this post, we demystify the art of crafting this classic cocktail and explain how to make the perfect Negroni.

With its perfectly balanced blend of vermouth, gin, and Campari, the Negroni is a symphony of complex flavors. We love its deep red hue and flawless harmony of bitter and sweet flavors.

Combined with its rich history and stylish allure, it’s no wonder the Negroni is seen as the epitome of sophistication. Join us as we take a look at why this cocktail deserves its reputation as one of the classics.

Introduction to Negroni

Introduction to Negroni

The Negroni is a cocktail steeped in tradition and is a firmly established classic in the world of mixology. An Italian creation, it’s the perfect blend of sweet vermouth, gin, and Campari.

The Campari gives it that signature ruby red color and deep bitter flavor, which perfectly balances out the sweet notes from the vermouth. The true appeal of Negroni is in its simplicity, with just three simple ingredients that harmonize to create this crowd-pleasing drink.

Although created in Italy, its popularity extends around the globe and the Negroni is a staple in many bars and restaurants.

There’s even a celebration, just for Negronis: Negroni Week, where bars and restaurants around the world mix classic Negronis and Negroni variations.

Although variations abound, there is beauty in the simplicity of the original drink with its 1:1:1 ratio of gin, Campari, and vermouth.

What Negroni Is

What Negroni Is

With its simple ingredients belying its complex flavor, a Negroni has come to represent refinement and elegance in the world of cocktails. One of the oldest cocktails in existence, the Negroni has an origin story that dates back to Florence, Italy in the early 1900s.

Brief History / Origin

Brief History / Origin

Although details are contested, it is commonly believed that the drink was invented in 1919 at the Caffè Casoni.

According to the story, a member of the Italian aristocracy, Count Camillo Negroni, would commonly drink a popular cocktail known as the Americano, which consisted of equal parts soda water, Campari, and vermouth.

In the mood for a stronger drink, the Count asked the bartender, named Fosco Scarselli, if he could replace the soda water with gin. The bartender also added orange as a garnish, compared to the lemon typically used when making an Americano.

This drink was an instant success, and thus, the Negroni was born. The Negroni has evolved over time and birthed a number of variations, but it still symbolizes old-world elegance and timeless sophistication.

Its popularity has remained steady throughout the years, and each variation and adaptation further cements its reputation as a versatile and classic cocktail.

Ingredients

Ingredients

In its classic form, the Negroni is simplicity itself. It contains just three ingredients in equal parts, with each ingredient bringing a unique note to the flavor profile of the whole. With a 1:1:1 ratio of gin, Campari, and vermouth, the Negroni is as classic as it is sophisticated.

Gin

Gin

Gin is the backbone of the Negroni and is what differentiates it from the Americano from which it was adapted.

The juniper notes of the gin give the cocktail a botanical complexity, with slightly piney undertones, including hints of spice and citrus.

The choice of gin can make or break a Negroni, with different brands offering very different flavor profiles.

Learn here more about the gin rickey.

Sweet Vermouth

Sweet vermouth is a fortified wine that gives the drink its sweetness. It has a slightly herbal undertone, combined with hints of fruit and spice.

The vermouth balances the crispness of the gin and the bitter notes of the Campari, seamlessly unifying the other ingredients into a balanced, complex whole.

Campari

Campari

Last but definitely not least, Campari gives the Negroni both its signature bitterness and signature color. A vibrant, ruby red liqueur, Campari has a uniquely bittersweet flavor.

It has a citrus flavor with notes of clove and cinnamon, with some comparing the bitterness to that of quinine. It’s the perfect counterpart to the sweetness of the vermouth, creating the ideal aperitif.

Together, these three ingredients create a cocktail that is bitter, sweet, strong, and flavorful. It’s a drink to be sipped and savored, with every mouthful revealing more nuance to the flavor profile.

The traditional garnish to a Negroni is a neatly trimmed wedge of orange, and many bartenders also squeeze the rind over the surface of the drink, adding a slick of orange oil to the surface of the cocktail.

Best Alcohol Brands for Negroni

Best Alcohol Brands for Negroni

The brand of alcohol you choose can have a significant impact on the flavor of the finished drink. Every brand has unique qualities and flavors, creating subtle but noticeable variations in flavor profiles.

Whether it’s the gin, vermouth, or Campari, choosing the right brand can make or break your Negroni.

Gin

Gin

Gin is the backbone of the Negroni, and the type of gin is important – the flavor profile can vary hugely depending on the chosen brand:

  • Tanqueray London Dry Gin: This gin is a staple, and for good reason. It’s known for its crisp botanical notes and strong juniper flavors. The bold presence holds its own in a Negroni, and the citrusy undertones and dry aftertaste make it a classic choice
  • Bombay Saphire: With its iconic blue bottle, Bombay Sapphire is known for its delicate floral notes. With a blend of botanicals, including citrus and coriander, it makes a light yet complex addition to your Negroni recipe.
  • Beefeater London Dry Gin: For a more traditional drink with strong juniper flavors, try Beefeater gin in your cocktail. It’s robust enough to stand out in a strong-tasting drink and creates a sturdy foundation for the other ingredients
  • Hendrick’s Gin: If you’re looking for something a little different, Hendrick’s Gin is the perfect choice! Infused with cucumber and rose flavors, it creates an intriguing flavor profile when added to the classic cocktail
  • Plymouth Gin: Plymouth gin has earth and fruity undertones, which round out the flavor profile of a classic Negroni. If you’re after a full-bodied and smooth Negroni experience, Plymouth gin will bring the rich flavor profile you’re after.

Vermouth (Sweet)

Vermouth (Sweet)

The type of vermouth that you choose for your Negroni is crucial. This element adds sweetness to your drink, which cuts through the bitterness of the Campari and harmonizes with the botanical notes of the gin:

  • Martini & Rossi Rosso: For a classic Negroni, you can’t go wrong with Martini & Rossi Rosso. This vermouth brings balance to your Negroni through its light-bodied, almost cola-like fruitiness, acting as the perfect complement to the gin and Campari
  • Carpano Antica Formula: This vermouth stands out thanks to its heady aroma and unique flavor pallet. With notes of vanilla, bitter orange, and dried fruit, it truly elevates the Negroni drinking experience
  • Cocchi Vermouth di Torino: For vermouth with more bitter notes to it, try Cocchi Vermouth di Torino. It is rich and full-bodied, with flavors reminiscent of cocoa and rhubarb, leading to a robust and distinctive cocktail.

Campari

Campari

When it comes to a Negroni, Campari is not just another ingredient; it truly is the defining element. It provides the iconic ruby hue and the authentic bitter taste that makes this classic cocktail so memorable.

Campari is not a type of alcohol, but the brand name of a liqueur which was invented in 1860 in Novara, Italy.

With flavor derived from a closely guarded secret blend of herbs and other botanical ingredients, Campari has an incredibly distinctive flavor.

It has a bitter, citrusy flavor, with notes of spice, including cinnamon and clove. Although no one knows the source of the flavors, some believe the bitter, citrusy flavor comes from a small, Italian orange known as Chinotto, famous for its bitter flavor.

Recipe – How to Make a Negroni

Recipe – How to Make a Negroni

Much as we love ordering a perfectly crafted Negroni from our favorite cocktail bar, the Negroni is the ideal cocktail to learn to make at home.

With only three ingredients in equal measures, it’s hard to mess up – even for a novice mixologist. All it takes is some practice to make the perfect Negroni in your own kitchen.

Choose your alcohol brands. Refer to our descriptions above for the flavor profiles that appeal most to your palate

Gather all your ingredients. You need:

  • Gin variation you like
  • Sweet Vermouth
  • Campari
  • Ice Cubes
  • A large ice cube
  • Orange peel

Gather your tools. You need:

  • Old-fashioned or rocks glass
  • One-ounce measure
  • Mixing glass
  • Stirrer
  • Strainer

And here’s how you do it:

  1. In your mixing glass, measure one ounce each of gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari. Add ice to the mixing glass and stir for 20-30 seconds. Stirring with ice slightly dilutes the drink, and ensures the flavors are softened and well combined
  2. Place a single large ice cube (use an ice sphere if you prefer) in your glass, then strain the Negroni mix over the ice cube
  3. To garnish, twist your orange peel over the surface of your drink to spritz the surface with its oils, then add the peel to the glass as a garnish. Serve immediately.

Time & Occasions for Drinking a Negroni

Time & Occasions for Drinking a Negroni

The Negroni is traditionally deemed to be an aperitif, a pre-dinner drink used to stimulate the appetite. It’s ideal to sip on in the late afternoon or early evening, and its timeless, classic nature means it is equally suited to casual gatherings of friends as it is to formal affairs.

Although bitter, the Negroni is also a crowd-pleaser, making it a popular drink of choice at cocktail parties, celebrations, and pre-dinner drinks.

Although a Negroni can, of course, be enjoyed year-round, we think there is something particularly perfect about sipping on one outside on a balmy summer evening – surrounded by good friends and good conversation.

Perfect Pairings

Perfect Pairings

The Negroni’s bold flavors are the perfect accompaniment to a range of dishes, particularly appetizers. We love to pair a classic Negroni with a simple, salty appetizer like olives, strong cheese, or charcuterie.

In fact, the saltier and stronger the dish the better; blue cheese is particularly good paired with the fruity bitterness of an ice-cold Negroni.

Don’t discount seafood as an accompaniment, either. You might think that the herbaceous notes would overpower the delicate flavors of the seafood, but it actually creates a delicious contrast.

Try pairing the cocktail with scallops, shrimp, or ceviche for a sophisticated summer combination.

Best Glass to Serve a Negroni

Best Glass to Serve a Negroni

The best glass to serve a Negroni in is undoubtedly an old-fashioned glass, also known as a rocks glass. This is a short, robust glass, perfect for showcasing Negroni’s potent mix of flavors.

It also easily accommodates a large, singular ice cube, which is the preferred way to present this versatile cocktail.

Thanks to the wide brim of an old-fashioned glass, the heady bouquet of the Negroni, with its botanical and citrus notes, can be fully appreciated.

The glass also has a certain heft and old-world elegance, which adds to the enjoyment of this classic drink.

Variations of Negroni

Variations of Negroni

Although the classic Negroni can’t be matched (in our opinion), there are a variety of variations on the Negroni that are worth trying.

From Negroni Sbagliato to Cynar Negroni, there are multiple delicious versions of this cocktail to sample. While the foundation remains the same, fruity or floral twists bring a new dimension of taste.

Negroni Sbagliato

Negroni Sbagliato

Probably the most famous variant of a Negroni, the Negroni Sbagliato uses sparkling wine, usually prosecco, instead of gin.

This creates a lighter, effervescent cocktail, ideal for those who find a traditional Negroni too strong.

The result is a little sweeter than a classic Negroni, and more approachable for those who prefer a little less alcohol in their pre-dinner drinks.

Aperol Negroni

Aperol Negroni

Another popular variation, the Aperol Negroni uses Aperol in place of Campari. Although both ingredients have a vibrant red hue, Aperol is less bitter, with notes of gentian, rhubarb, and cinchona.

The Aperol Negroni is perfect for those who find Campari to be too bitter, providing a more mellow and easily drinkable cocktail.

Mezcal Negroni

Mezcal Negroni

Mezcal is a Mexican spirit famous for its smoky flavor. The Mezcal Negroni uses Mezcal in place of the gin, adding an extra note of complexity to an already bold drink.

The smoky mezcal combined with the bitter Campari and sweet vermouth is not for the faint of heart but is an intriguing combination for cocktail drinkers wanting to try something different.

White Negroni

White Negroni

The white Negroni only retains the gin from the original recipe, replacing the vermouth with Lillet Blanc and the Campari for Suze. The resulting cocktail is far less bitter and has a light, floral, citrusy flavor. It’s also a different color: a vibrant, zesty yellow.

Cynar Negroni

Cynar Negroni

The Cynar Negroni replaces the classic Campari with Cynar, a bitter Italian liqueur made from a blend of secret herbs. One ingredient in this liqueur is known – artichoke – and it adds a deep, earthy flavor to the cocktail. This is the perfect twist for lovers of bitter cocktails, with a deep, earthy flavor and dark, caramel color.

Similar Cocktails You Will Enjoy

Similar Cocktails You Will Enjoy

If you’re a Negroni lover, there is a whole wide world of similar cocktails to discover. These cocktails share either ingredients or flavor profiles with the Negroni and are all worth trying – particularly for lovers of that bitter Negroni tang.

From Aperol Spritz to Boulevardier, these cocktails will keep your night varied and delicious.

Boulevardier

Boulevardier

The Boulevardier changes gin for whiskey, typically bourbon or rye whisky. The deep, warm flavor of the whiskey goes well with the bitterness of the Campari and the sweet notes of Vermouth. This makes it it perfect for whiskey lovers who still want to enjoy those bitter Negroni flavors.

Americano

Americano

The Americano is the father of the Negroni; remember how Count Negroni wanted an Americano, but stronger?

This cocktail uses soda water in place of gin and is markedly lower in alcohol and more refreshing than a classic Negroni. It’s a great choice for a hot summer afternoon, or for those who find the high alcohol content of a Negroni a bit much.

Aperol Spritz

Aperol Spritz

An Aperol spritz has the same bitter notes as a Negroni but is lighter and more refreshing – similar to the Americano.

It mixes Aperol with Prosecco and soda water for a quenching summer drink, balancing sweet and bitter flavors with a delightful effervescence.

With its bright orange hue and approachable flavor, it’s ideal for social gatherings, pre-dinner drinks, and more.

Old Pal

Old Pal

If you’re a lover of dry cocktails, the Old Pal will be perfect for you. It replaces gin with rye whisky and swaps out sweet Vermouth for dry.

Old Pal retains the bitter component of Campari, but without the sweetness of Vermouth to cut through it. This makes it ideal for those who prefer a sharp, potent cocktail.

Martini

Martini

Although a Martini lacks the bitter element of Campari or similar liqueurs, it does have gin and vermouth as ingredients in common with a Negroni.

Combining gin with a dry vermouth, garnished with an olive or twist of lemon, a classic Martini is simplicity itself. If you want to enjoy the botanical, herbaceous notes of a high-quality gin, a Martini is the perfect way to do this.

Martini Variations

Here are some famous Martini variation:

Campari Spritz

Campari Spritz

The cousin of an Aperol Spritz, a Campari Spritz uses the classic bitter liqueur to create the perfect summer drink.

Combining Campari with Prosecco and soda water, it’s ideal for those who love the flavor profile of a Negroni but are looking for something a little lighter.

We think it’s the perfect choice for a hot summer afternoon, best enjoyed with a bowl of olives and a well-chosen charcuterie board.

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