How can a cocktail be as popular today as it was in the early 1900s? The answer is the Negroni’s unique recipe combination of bitterness and sweetness and its simplicity.
While many classic cocktails have fallen out of favor over the years, the Negroni remains one of the most enduring of the classics and has even become one of today’s most fashionable drinks. There are bars devoted to the Negroni cocktail—like Caffe Dante in New York, which was voted the best bar in the world in 2019 and serves 14 different types of Negronis—and it has been popularized as the only drink by an elegant set of stylish gentlemen, who document their Negronis with the hashtag #negronispotting on Instagram.
With its legions of fans, it’s hard to believe the Negroni is more than 100 years old. It all began in Florence in 1919 when an Italian count, Camilo Negroni, asked the bartender at Caffè Casoni to swap the soda water for gin in his usual Americano cocktail. The count had recently been to London, where gin was all the rage. He happily obliged and garnished the new drink with a twist of orange, and the classic Negroni recipe was born.
The ingredients are found in most bars, so it’s a favorite cocktail for travelers because it tastes the same everywhere you go, and no matter how remote the bar, it’s pretty impossible to mess up a 1:1:1 ratio.
Its enduring allure can be attributed to its simplicity. The classic Negroni recipe is so easy that you don’t even need a recipe: It’s equal parts Campari, gin and sweet vermouth topped with a twist of orange. The ingredients are found in most bars, so it’s a favorite cocktail for travelers because it tastes the same everywhere you go, and no matter how remote the bar, it’s pretty impossible to mess up a 1:1:1 ratio.
“A Negroni works perfectly at the start of your night, the middle AND the end. They have never dealt me a hangover (unlike an Old Fashioned), and I order them everywhere I go, all around the world. I have had good ones and not-so-good ones, but, like pizza, even the not-so-good ones are pretty great!” Matt Hranek, the founder of WM Brown, said.
The Negroni cocktail may have plenty of devoted fans, but the bitterness of Campari can be off-putting at first.
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“Negronis have always had a strong, bitter flavor that might not be for everyone, but that’s what makes them so unique. Some say you need to try Campari three times before you acquire a taste for it. Though, if you are enticed to go beyond the first, or even second sip, many find they grow to adore it. The bittersweet flavor of a Negroni is captivating,” Daniel Warrilow, Italian Portfolio Ambassador for Campari America, said.
Tiffanie Barriere, mixologist, educator and member of the James Beard Advisory Board, believes the combination of bitterness and sweetness to be what makes the Negroni cocktail so special, stating, “Its flavor and color keep it alluring and solid. The Negroni is compiled of sweet, bitter and botanical hints that all make for a bittersweet glass of greatness.”
The beauty of the Negroni recipe is that there are endless variations, should you not care for the botanical notes of gin.
“If you like bourbon, swap it in for gin for the perfect cold-weather classic cocktail, a Boulevardier. If you like tequila, you would just replace the gin with tequila and then you have a Tequila Negroni,” Warrilow said.
Barriere’s favorite variation is the Agave Negroni, which uses mezcal in place of gin. “I believe the agave brings out the sweetness of the Campari, and the vermouth balances the two. Mezcal is also made from agave, so there is quality in the combination there as well,” Barriere said.
And for those who can’t quite develop the taste for Campari, there’s the Sbagliato, which means “mistaken” in Italian. Legend has it, a busy bartender poured Prosecco instead of gin, which cuts the bitterness and makes a slightly sweeter Negroni.
Keep reading for our favorite Negroni cocktail recipes.
The classic Negroni recipe is compiled of sweet, bitter and botanical hints that all make for a bittersweet glass of greatness.
● 1.5 oz sweet vermouth
● 1.5 oz Campari
● 1.5 oz Prosecco
● Orange twist (for garnish)
Stir Campari and sweet vermouth in a mixing glass with ice. Strain into a flute. Top with Prosecco and stir. Garnish with an orange twist.
CLASSIC NEGRONI RECIPE
● 1 oz gin
● 1 oz Campari
● 1 oz sweet vermouth
● Orange twist (for garnish)
Stir gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth in a mixing glass with ice until well chilled. Strain into a rocks glass filled with large ice cubes. Garnish with an orange twist.
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