The Negroni cocktail is a classic three-ingredient cocktail. A mix of Campari, gin, and vermouth, this cocktail is one of the most popular in the world. It's super easy to make, and the eye-catching ruby red color of Campari makes it a beautiful drink to serve. This version has a bit of a tweak: in order to cut down on the sweetness, the gin is increased and the Campari and vermouth are reduced.
The Negroni is one of those drinks that has a really dedicated following. It can be a bit of an acquired taste, since it is more bitter than a lot of cocktails, but that's tempered with a lot of sweetness and citrusy flavors.
One of my favorite ways to drink this is by adding lemon juice to balance that sweetness a bit, but since that is more like a Gin Campari Sour, I decided to stick to the classic three ingredients here. By increasing the gin and proportionally decreasing the Campari and vermouth, I hit upon something that I liked a whole lot more than the equal-parts classic.
The White Negroni is a variation of this cocktail that uses a similar drink template, but has a very different taste, with a lot less sweetness and more bitterness. If you want something similar but a little lighter, try the delicious Negroni Sbagliato with Prosecco. Or, if you're looking for another classic to pair this with, the Last Word cocktail is citrusy, complex and delicious.
History of the Negroni
The Negroni can be dated all the way back to 1919, in Florence, Italy. As the story goes, Count Camillo Negroni strolled into his favorite bar, Caffè Casoni, with an adventurous twist on his usual order. He asked the bartender, Fosco Scarselli, to strengthen his favorite cocktail, the Americano, by replacing the soda water with gin. The result was a stronger drink with a legendary balance of sweet, bitter and strong.
Scarselli named the drink after the Count, and over time, the drink gained more and more popularity. Its fame was partly due to Count Negroni's globetrotter background (he reportedly spent some time in America as a rodeo clown!). Also, its simplicity helped it along, since the three ingredients were already staples of most bars. Over the years, the Negroni became a classic, and is still one of the world's most popular cocktails.
There are just three ingredients in this drink (plus the garnish), so they are each very important. Of course, there are tons of variations on the Negroni, but here are the classic components:
- Gin - the gin is a big part of this cocktail, and although you can use any gin you like, many of the more modern gins will get lost in comparison to the Campari. Here I've used Plymouth Gin, which worked well. A London Dry style of gin, like Tanqueray or Bombay Sapphire, would work great too.
- Campari - Campari aperitivo liqueur is an iconic Italian amaro that is highly bitter, but with a lot of citrus notes and a lot of sweetness. It is an aperitif, which means it's often served before dinner to wake up the appetite.
- Vermouth - vermouth is a fortified wine, which means it has more alcohol than regular wine and will usually have sugar added as well. I used Carpano Antica Formula sweet vermouth here, which is one of the most well-known vermouths and has a rich raisin-and-caramel flavor.
- Orange Peel - the classic orange peel garnish does more than just look good! Bartenders squeeze the peel over the top of the drink so that the oils spray on the top of the drink, which gives a beautiful citrus scent and impacts the flavor when drinking.
This is an easy one to make! Just mix all three ingredients, chill and dilute with ice, and use an orange peel as a garnish. Most bartenders will stir this drink with ice and then strain it into the serving glass, but I won't tell if you want to make it in the serving glass. (I did too!)
Just pour all the ingredients over ice, and give it a few stirs so it gets cold and the ingredients come together.
Then, grab a vegetable peeler and make a very thin, long strip of orange peel. Twist the peel on top of the cocktail so that the orange oils spray across the top of the liquid, and add the peel to the drink to serve.
Hint: Try making this in advance and storing it in the fridge overnight. The flavors come together nicely with the extra aging. You can even make a big batch if you're having a party (or are just a huge Negroni fan!)
There are about a million and a half different ways to customize your Negroni and make it your own! It's definitely one of those cocktails that becomes a kind of formula to follow. Try out different brands of gin, vermouth, and aperitifs if you want to branch out.
Some of the variations on a Negroni are popular in their own right. Here are a few to try out:
- Aperol Negroni - substitute Aperol for the Campari. Note that this makes things even sweeter and with less alcohol content, so you may need to adjust the other ingredients too.
- White Negroni - this can vary, but the idea is to use gin along with a gentian-flavored aperitif like Suze, plus dry vermouth or Lillet Blanc.
- Negroni Sbagliato - sbagliato means "mistake" in Italian. The story behind this one is that a bartender mistakenly put Prosecco sparkling wine into a Negroni instead of the gin. It's a light variation that has less alcohol too.
- Boulevardier - this is a Negroni with bourbon instead of gin. Highly recommended!
When cutting your orange peel, try to make it as thin as possible so you don't leave too much of the white pith underneath. If you're having problems with making it too thick, try using the peeler or a knife to scrape off excess white pith. And keep practicing!
- Cocktail serving glass
- Citrus or vegetable peeler
- Cocktail mixing glass and strainer (optional)
- 1½ ounces gin (classic recipe: 1 part)
- ¾ ounce Campari (classic recipe: 1 part)
- ¾ ounce sweet vermouth (classic recipe: 1 part)
- orange peel
- Add a large ice cube to the cocktail serving glass.
- If you're using a cocktail mixing glass, add the gin, Campari, and vermouth and stir with a bar spoon about 30 times. Otherwise, add them all to the cocktail serving glass and stir it up to combine the ingredients.1½ ounces gin, ¾ ounce Campari, ¾ ounce sweet vermouth
- Use a vegetable peeler to cut a large piece of orange peel, taking care not to get too much white pith on it.orange peel
- Twist the cut piece of peel over top of the serving glass with the outside part of the orange peel facing the glass. This will give it an orange aroma which really enhances the drink.
- Serve immediately.