Generally speaking I’m not interested much in craft cocktail douchery, but when I started to research the Negroni I became intrigued… After just a bit of investigation I found that I stumbled onto a classic cocktail revered as much for its subtlety as its simplicity. A potent Gin-based cocktail that balances sweet and bitter flavors, the Negroni is an approachable cocktail that most will enjoy. Clearly the bitter component may sour some to this cocktail, but I found that after my first sip I was hooked.
Good for all occasions, the Negroni is particularly well suited to warmer weather. Traditionally an aperitif, the Negroni is served up in a martini glass with a coil of fresh orange skin as a garnish, it’s an eye-catching drink with its vibrant red color delivered by the Campari. The balance between the astringent nature of Gin and the sweet flavor of the Campari is really interesting; in fact I find that there’s a slightly medicinal quality that draws me in. My wife has often described her addiction to the medicinal quality of Diet Coke and I think that’s what’s hooked me too.
Be Aware: Negroni’s pack a wallop so be prepared. In fact I found a related joke in my travels:
Question: What do Negronis and women’s breast have in common?
Answer: One is not enough and three is too many.
Fanatical Fan Base
With a combination of mystery, history and simplicity it’s no wonder that the Negroni has a fanatical fan base. An uncommon cocktail that invites attention, it’s just plain cool. And once an inquisitive drinker has been lured into asking about it, the Negroni’s rich and interesting history makes a great conversation starter. Briefly, the drink dates back to Italy when in 1919 Italian Count Negroni ordered an Americano with the club soda replaced with Gin. A working cowboy when traveling through the United States, the Count apparently needed something that packed more of a punch. Finally, its simple mixology has encouraged cocktail fans of all types to embrace the Negroni. Stimulated by 2014’s Negroni Week, this drink continues to generate twitter mentions.
The Classic Negroni Cocktail: 1:1:1
Contrary to the complicated nature of many of today’s cocktails, the popularity of the Negroni is clearly based on its simplicity. In short the classic version contains three ingredients: Gin, Campari and Sweet Vermouth. Offering a delicate balance of flavor, I think that this is one drink that can make an appearance at any occasion.
The Basic Recipe
Although there are practically an unlimited number of different ways to prepare a Negroni, I strongly advise that you start with the basic recipe and create your own twist:
- Fill a shaker with ice
- Combine liquid ingredients
- Stir Until Beads of Frost Form on the Shaker
- Strain into chilled cocktail glass;
- Garnish with orange slice, lemon twist or both
- Yield: 1 serving.
Alternatives to the Classic Negroni
No matter how simple the preparation of any cocktail may be, there are always alternatives and I’ve encountered a few. In some cases these include different techniques in preparation and in others it may be different (but related) recipes entirely. Here’s what I found:
Different Preparation Methods
Although I respect the classic methods of cocktail preparation as much as the next guy, I’m not a slave to them. Here are a couple twists that can create a remarkably different Negroni:
Up vs. On the Rocks – Generally I enjoy my drinks to stay cool and since I don’t gulp them down, I like my Negroni on the rocks. I also enjoy a little dilution, especially with a stronger drink like this one.
Shaken vs. Stirred – Always an option, you can pursue your favorite mixing method but I prefer stirring Negronis. The purpose of shaking a cocktail is to forcefully mix a cocktail and even incorporate air into the beverage. This is simply not needed for this drink, but if it appeals to you, shake away.
A Contemporary, Lighter Tasting Negroni
Contemporary tastes often prefer a lighter, drier taste. So veteran bartender and author Toby Cecchini offers this option for those that want something a bit more modern:
- 1 oz. Campari
- 1 oz. Sweet Vermouth
- 3 oz. Gin
- Orange Slice or Lemon Twist
Experiment With Bitters
Although the traditional Negroni recipe keeps it simple, there are those that feel bitters can provide a bit more subtly. Granted I haven’t explored this option (yet), but I’m sure that it won’t be long until my Negroni consumption has moved beyond the novice stage.
As previously mentioned, the Negroni is not only delicious but toxic. However I found a couple intriguing, less toxic options in the comments on writer David Lebovitz’s blog. In short, reader Judith Klinger recommended the Negroni Sbagliato which replaces the Gin with either Prosecco or even champagne. While I haven’t tried this option, it looks like it might be an excellent brunch option.
Similar to the Negroni, the Cin-Cyn replaces Campari with the lower-alcohol Cynar. An herby liquer made from artichokes, Cynar is a popular aperitif in Italy and would certainly make an interesting cocktail. This is one option that I’d want to try when I’m out; I wouldn’t want to be saddled with an entire bottle of artichoke liquer if it sucks 😉
- 1 oz Gin
- 1 oz Cynar
- 1 oz Sweet Vermouth
- 2 Dashes Orange Bitters
Billed as the “kissing cousin” to the Negroni, the Parisian Americano simply replaces Gin with Dry Vermouth.
- 1 oz. Campari
- 1 oz. Sweet Vermouth
- 1 oz. Dry Vermouth
- Orange Slice