Is there anything more sophisticated than a good Negroni? Over the years, the classic, three-ingredient cocktail has become a staple of dive bars, barrooms and the at-home mixologist’s counter-top, and for good reason. The Negroni is the essential cocktail. Simple to make, easy to sip and satisfying to finish, this classic concoction has more than stood the test of time. Perhaps the Negroni cocktail’s most significant advantage is that it cannot be defined by age, gender or palate. The contrasting bitter, sweet and dry flavour profiles allow the drink to transcend groups, hitting the spot no matter if it’s a hot day in the suburbs or and rainy evening in the city.
Whatever the weather where you are, it’s about time to crack out the fine glassware. This Saturday, June 13 marks World Gin Day, a glorious celebration of the centuries-old spirit. The dry, clear liquor has kept up with the times, thanks in part to its collaborations and combinations with other alcoholic and non-alcoholic counterparts, most notably in the form of the Negroni. This year, it’s time you finally learned how to put the pieces together on the classic cocktail. We’ve collated this guide on the best Negroni recipe you’ll find anywhere on earth.
What is a Negroni?
If you haven’t had the pleasure of getting acquainted with the famed cocktail, you’re in for a treat. The mix of sweet, dry and bitter flavours have made the cocktail a favourite amongst celebrities and suburban homebodies alike, but its likely origins are most closely linked to the elites. No one knows for sure how the Negroni made its way into the popular vernacular, but the common account is that it was birthed, like many great artworks before it, in the Italian city of Florence. Legend has it that in 1919 at Caffè Casoni (formerly Caffè Giacosa), Count Camillo Negroni created what was to be the first iteration of the Negroni recipe by aking the bartender, Fosco Scarselli to strengthen his favourite cocktail, the Americano by adding gin rather than the normal soda. Scarselli, ever the cunning mixologist, decided to add an orange garnish rather than the Americano’s traditional lemon, thus signifying the difference.
From there, the legend of the Negroni drink grew throughout Italy, prompting the Count and his family to found the original Negroni Distillerie in Treviso. The company began producing ready-made Negroni cocktails, sold as Antico Negroni in 1919, however, it wasn’t until 1947 that the drink made its triumphant entrance into American culture.
On a trip to Rome, while working on correspondence with the Coshocton Tribune, Citizen Kane director Orson Welles wrote of the Negroni. An infamous fan of alcoholic endeavour, Welles noted “the bitters are excellent for your liver, the gin is bad for you. They balance each other.”
Main alcohol: Campari, Vermouth, Gin
Served: On the rocks
Standard garnish: Orange peel
Drinkware: Old Fashioned glass
What makes the Negroni cocktail such a pivotal and influential drink in the mixologist’s arsenal is the fact that it requires little to no preparation. The three-ingredient wonder is a masterpiece of flavour profiles, blending strong, cutting sharpness with subtle dry notes to create a complex concoction that is as welcoming as it is divisive. According to the International Bartenders Association, the ingredients you need to make the perfect Negroni are;
- 30ml Gin
- 30 Bitter Campari
- 30ml Sweet Red Vermouth
Of course, there are variations to the method and different Negroni ingredients that you can implement as you see fit, but this list is universally accepted. It’s best to remember, however, that when it comes to putting the drink together, the overall flavour will be heavily reliant on your choice of gin.
What is the Best Gin for a Negroni?
Whether you have a tried and tested favourite, or you are new to the game, picking the best gin for your Negroni is an integral part of the process. Going for a drier gin will soften the sharpness of the Campari, while a strong proof will add a bit more grunt to the final product. The good news is that there are more quality, accessible gin producers now than ever before. Whatever your preference or price point, you’ll be able to find the ideal flavour combination for you.
Here is a list of the 6 best gins to use for a Negroni.
1. Complex Negroni – Hendricks
Instead of the regular citrus peels and juniper, Hendrick’s Gin highlights a broad range of flavours like rose and cucumber, giving it a subtle lift. Expect sweet and floral flavours to rise to the surface.
2. Barrel-Aged Negroni – Four Pillars Sherry Barrel Aged
One for the whisky drinkers, Four Pillars’ barrel-aged gin is a great middle-ground for dark spirit drinkers making their way into the world of gin.
3. Classic Negroni – Tanqueray
One of the most iconic gins on the market, Tanqueray is pretty much the gold standard for cocktail making. Even better, this London dry style gin is affordable and a perfect match for your at-home Negroni aspirations.
4. Budget Negroni – Gordon’s Dry Gin
Maybe this is your first experience making a Negroni, or maybe you’re on the budget end of the drinking spectrum. Either way, Gordon’s London Dry Gin is a decent alternative that provides an entry-level approach to the iconic Negroni cocktail.
5. Heavy Negroni – Four Pillars Navy Strength Gin
This Navy Strength gin is not for the faint of heart. Four Pillars has loaded this botanical gin with 58.8 ABV, making it ideal for cutting through the sharpness of the Campari.
6. Aussie Negroni – Archie Rose Signature Dry
Australian distillery Archie Rose is picking up awards left, right and centre. If you want to give your Negroni recipe an Aussie twist, go for the brand’s signature dry gin and experience 14 traditional native botanicals.
Much like the Negroni ingredients we mentioned above, we called on the International Bartenders Association for a bit of assistance in getting the classic cocktail down-pat. This Negroni recipe has been refined over the years, putting forward the iconic flavours that the Count first called for, in a modern and contemporary way. Best of all, this super simple method doesn’t require any extensive measuring or specialist cocktail gear. Here is the method for making the perfect Negroni cocktail;
- Fill an Old Fashioned glass with ice
- In a separate tall glass, pour one part gin, one part bitter Campari and one part sweet red vermouth
- Using a stirring straw, stir gently for 30 seconds
- Strain the mixture into the chilled Old Fashioned glass
- Garnish with a sliced orange peel, twisting to express the oils
Common Negroni Mistakes
Being that the Negroni cocktail was invented (reportedly) back in 1919, the classic cocktail has over 100 years’ worth of heritage on its side. That century’s worth of established success hasn’t stopped amateur mixologists from attempting to rework the Negroni recipe, to varying degrees of success. The common Negroni mistakes you want to avoid have less to do with mixing ingredients, and more about tradition and preparation. For example;
- Stir the Negroni with ice – When you build a drink in the glass, you run the risk or potentially diluting the mixture, or making it not cold enough.
- Always use an orange twist – Make sure to express the oils out of the peel.
- Use high-quality vermouth – Certain brands will pair better with Campari than others. For this reason, a stronger, more bitter vermouth, such as Punt e Mes or Cocchi di Torino will be best.
Whether you are a gin connoisseur or an absolute novice this Negroni recipe is the ideal way to kickstart your cocktail career. Simple, sharp and straight down to the point, the Negroni drink is the perfect celebration to commemorate World Gin Day.
Why is it called a Negroni?
According to legend, the drink is named after Count Camillo Negroni, who asked his friend, bartender Forsco Scarselli, to strengthen his favourite cocktail – the Americano – by replacing the soda water with gin.
How much alcohol is in a Negroni?
As the Negroni is made entirely of liquor it is not a weak drink, however, it is not as strong as an Old Fashioned. It is closer in strength to a classic dry martini with a Negroni's alcohol content to be somewhere around 24 per cent ABV (48 proof).
What does a Negroni taste like?
The Negroni has a strong cherry, wine and citrus taste, thanks to its three ingredients; gin, sweet vermouth and Campari.