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The Negroni can be a divisive drink. With its strong, spirited bittersweet profile, it’s certainly not for cocktail neophytes. And yet over the past decade or so it has attracted a strong, dedicated following of industry veterans and casual bar-goers alike.
Traditionally made with equal parts gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth, it’s simple to make but complex in flavor. And much of that flavor changes depending on the gin you choose. “Not all gins are made the same, which means not all Negronis should be made the same,” says Brendan Bartley, head bartender & beverage director at Bathtub Gin in New York City. And it’s not just a gin’s blend of botanicals that can make a difference. “I consider not only the flavor profile of the gin but the proof and body,” says Eryn Reece, head bartender at Banzarbar in NYC. Go for a higher-proof gin and you’ll sense and taste its presence more. Want to play up the sweet vermouth and Campari? You might opt for a lower-proof spirit.
Best Overall: Fords Gin
Region: England | ABV: 45% | Tasting Notes: Grapefruit, Juniper, Floral
Created by industry veteran Simon Ford and master distiller Charles Maxwell, Fords Gin was created to be versatile, equally at home in a Tom Collins as it was in a Martini or, for our purposes, a Negroni. Distilled with nine botanicals, including the traditional juniper and coriander seed, this gin is citrusy, floral, and friendly. In a Negroni, its zesty grapefruit notes mingle with the Campari while its earthier botanicals meld with the sweet vermouth.
“The ideal Negroni gin should be well-balanced and juniper-forward with good texture and body,” says Ford. “I believe Fords makes a great Negroni gin since our botanical recipe features an abundance of juniper, which gives the drink its body, as well as lemon, orange and grapefruit to brighten it up.”
Best Budget: Broker's Gin
Region: England | ABV: 47% | Tasting Notes: Juniper, Coriander, Lemon Zest
Yes, each bottle of Broker’s comes topped with a plastic bowler hat, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t a respectable London Dry gin. (Think of it as the grown-up equivalent of a Happy Meal toy—only way better because this one comes with a bottle gin.)
The widely available gin is distilled with ten botanicals including Bulgarian juniper, cinnamon, nutmeg, and citrus peels. Clean and crisp with a strong punch of alcohol, this classically reliable gin makes for a bright and balanced Negroni. Stick with the standard equal parts recipe and garnish with a swath of orange zest to play up the citrus notes within the gin.
Related: The Best Cheap Gins
Best Top-Shelf: Ferdinand's Saar Dry Gin
Region: Germany | ABV: 44% | Tasting Notes: Juniper, Rose, Spice
Made in Germany’s famed Saar wine region, this gin changes with every batch. Distillers pick a different bill of botanicals from their gardens to complement that year’s wine. This is not an exercise in restraint—distillers use around 30 botanicals to create a symphony of flavors.
“This is a very full, German gin distilled with a little bit of Riesling prior to bottling,” says Bartley. “Its herbaceous notes and delicate stone fruit marry well with the bitterness of Campari.” Since every batch is made with a unique blend of botanicals, your Negroni will also change bottle to bottle—perfect for Negroni lovers looking to add a little intrigue to their cocktail repertoire.
Best London Dry: Tanqueray No. 10
Region: Scotland | ABV: 47.3% | Tasting Notes: Juniper, Lemon Zest, Grapefruit
“I feel like a traditional Negroni (i.e. Campari, sweet vermouth, and gin) should be made with a London dry gin,” says Reece. Tanqueray No. 10 takes the juniper-heavy flavor profile of classic Tanqueray and then gives it a shock of citrus, adding distillate infused with whole fruits to the blend. That simple but distinct flavor profile allows the spirit to clearly come through in a Negroni.
Toronto bartender Evelyn Chick, founder of the Stay At Home Cocktail Club, likes her Negronis to be dry, bright, and “gin-heavy.” She likes London drys for their juniper-forward flavor. “I also like mine with a grapefruit twist as the slightly bitter and floral oils accentuate the Campari,” she says. She likes to pair Tanqueray No. 10 with a full-bodied Spanish vermouth like Guerra Rojo.
Related: The Best Gins
Best Australian: Four Pillars Rare Dry Gin
Region: Australia | ABV: 41.8% | Tasting Notes: Orange, Herbal, Baking Spices
The recent influx of Australian gins has opened gin-lovers up to a new world of wonderful botanicals. This one, the flagship offering from the Yarra Valley distillery, is no exception. It features the standard juniper along with Australian-grown whole oranges, lemon myrtle, and lavender, along with other botanicals like Tasmanian pepperberry, Vietnamese star anise, and Sri Lankan cassia.
"When mixing in a Negroni, be sure to finish the drink off with a swath of orange zest to highlight the gin’s bright, citrusy flavors. This is a great Australian gin from back home that really showcases some great native botanicals,” says Australian ex-pat Bartley. “Its bone dry approach and unique ingredients make for a really complex and amazing Negroni. If you make it with some of the crazy vermouths from Australia as well, it will be something rarer than vegemite but much more approachable.”
Related: The Best Gins for Martinis
Best U.K.: Sipsmith V.J.O.P.
Region: England | ABV: 57.7% | Tasting Notes: Juniper, Pine, Orange Zest
The name of this gin stands for “Very Junipery Over Proof,” and, boy, is it. Distillers use double the amount of juniper berries they use in their standard London Dry, making this navy strength spirit an undeniable presence in any Negroni. The upfront juniper flavor—not to mention the fiery punch of the high proof—zip through the Campari and sweet vermouth. Powerful as it is, the V.J.O.P. is remarkably balanced. So you’ll end up with a gin-forward Negroni that’s still smooth and harmonious. Even so, be sure to sip slowly. A Negroni made with this gin is not to be underestimated.
Best Japanese: Nikka Coffey
Region: Japan | ABV: 47% | Tasting Notes: Citrus, Green Pepper, Apple
Created by one of the world’s great whiskey makers, this gin is distilled on a Coffey still—aka a column still—which is known to efficiently produce clean, refined spirits. Because of this, it is a wonderful gin to sip solo with just a twist of lemon, but also elevates classic gin cocktails like Negronis.
While juniper is in the mix, citrus fruits dominate the botanical blend. Along with lemon and orange peels, Nikka infuses their gin with Japanese fruits: yuzu, kabosu, amantsu, and shequasar. These fresh flavors combine with juniper, coriander, and angelica to create a unique gin that shines in cocktails. Go light on the sweet vermouth when making a Negroni with Nikka and let the punchy Campari and gin components shine.
Best New American: Barr Hill Gin
Region: Vermont | ABV: 45% | Tasting Notes: Honey, Floral, Juniper
What happens when a fermentation enthusiast and beekeeper get together? You get Barr Hill, a line of spirits made with raw honey. Their silky flagship gin is finished with it, resulting in a floral gin that has a touch of sweetness and gorgeous presence. It brings that body and warmth to a Negroni.
“Barr Hill Gin has a very simple but effective approach: base spirit, juniper and raw honey,” says Bartley. “This simple recipe really makes it a pleasure to work around the floral-ness that the raw honey brings through. The offset sweetness really breaks down the Campari and lets both ingredients talk in unison rather than speaking separately in the Negroni.”
Best for White Negroni: Nolet's Silver Dry Gin
Region: Netherlands | ABV: 47.6% | Tasting Notes: Rose, Vanilla, Peach
This easy-going gin goes light on the juniper, making it perfect for a traditionally less in-your-face White Negroni. Made with Turkish rose and fresh fruits, this Dutch gin complements the floral flavors of Lillet Blanc and plays up the sweetness in the cocktail. Though it’s soft enough to be sipped on its own, it’s deceptively high in alcohol so don’t gulp down your White Negroni too speedily, refreshing as it may be. If you’re looking for an introduction to Negronis and are a little nervous about diving into the deep end, dip your figurative toe into a Nolet’s White Negroni.
Best Out-of-the-Box: F.E.W. Breakfast Gin
Region: Illinois | ABV: 42% | Tasting Notes: Juniper, Lemon Zest, Bergamot
F.E.W. may be known for its whiskeys (and for being the first distillery in Evanston, Illinois, to open since Prohibition), but its gins are worth seeking out—especially the quirkily named Breakfast Gin.
It’s marvelous in a mid-morning Ramos Gin Fizz or an early afternoon Corpse Reviver #2, but that’s not all. Though not a traditional brunch drink, a Negroni made with this Earl Grey-infused gin is perfectly at home next to a stack of pancakes and fruit salad. Wonderfully aromatic and slightly herbal with a touch of sugared lemon peel, this small-batch gin makes for a Negroni that’s extra easy to gulp down.
Best Pink: Salcombe Rosé Sainte Marie
Region: England | ABV: 41.4% | Tasting Notes: Strawberry, Orange Zest, Herbal
This is not a cloying, sticky-sweet pink “gin.” Nor is it a bottled version of a Pink Gin cocktail. This is a spirit all its own. Colored and flavored naturally with strawberries, this soft pink-hued gin from relative newcomer Salcombe is a great pick for those who want a spirit that goes light on the juniper.
Delicate and fruity with hints of lavender and other Provencal herbs, it has enough of a grapefruit bite to stand up to the sweet vermouth and Campari in a classic Negroni. That said, you could also try it in a Negroni riff made with rosé vermouth and a floral aperitif spirit such as Lo-Fi’s Gentian Amaro or Cappelletti Amaro Sfumato Rabarbaro in place of the Campari.
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Justine Sterling is an experienced spirits writer and cocktail recipe developer. She has been writing about the wide world of drinking—from new spirits to cocktail trends to wines and beers—for over a decade.