The Negroni, like many classic cocktails, calls for just a few ingredients: gin, sweet vermouth and, of course, Campari. The famed Italian liqueur usually gets the most attention, since it’s responsible for the drink’s signature vibrant red color and bright bitterness. The recipe for the historic concoction is no secret (an equal measure of all three ingredients is standard, as is an orange garnish), but to make the best possible Negroni, what gin and vermouth should you use?
To answer this tough question, we recruited some of the West Coast’s best bartenders: Erik Adkins (The Slanted Door and Heaven’s Dog), Marco Dionysos (Rye and Smuggler’s Cove), Ryan Fitzgerald (Beretta), Steven Liles (Smuggler’s Cove) and Vince Lund (Beretta) from San Francisco, and Zane Harris (Rob Roy) from Seattle. Our crack team of mixological researchers was led by the talented Jacques Bezuidenhout, who trains Kimpton Hotels’ bartenders around the country and is also the brand ambassador for Partida Tequila.
Using the same recipe, our bar all-stars made Negronis with 14 different kinds of gin, in a wide range of styles and flavors. After much stirring, sipping and debating, they agreed that Plymouth Gin and traditional London dry gins, in particular Beefeater and Tanqueray, worked the best.
Not that long ago, you didn’t have all that much choice when it came to sweet vermouth: Most bars and stores carried just a few brands. But now there’s an ever-growing selection of fine and complex fortified wines from across Europe. Call them traditionalists, but our bartenders picked staples Martini & Rossi Rosso and Cinzano Rosso as their Negroni favorites. While some of the other vermouths worked well, especially with nontraditionally flavored gins, many of them were a bit overpowering and threw off the drink’s delicate balance. None were as good at “binding the gin and Campari together,” Bezuidenhout says.
Now that the results are in, it’s time for you to mix up a Negroni and see for yourself why this is the best recipe.
Add all the ingredients to an old fashioned glass filled with ice and stir until cold. Garnish with an orange slice.
(Image courtesy of Liza Gershman)