The bitter three-ingredient Italian cocktail known as the Negroni has become a classic, sitting alongside the Martini and Manhattan in the pantheon of beloved and oft-riffed-upon cocktails.
It’s said to have been invented in 1919 by Count Camillo Negroni at Caffè Casoni in Florence, Italy, after the Count requested something a bit stronger than the then-popular Americano cocktail—a mixture of sweet vermouth, Campari and soda water—and was given a drink in which gin took the place of the soda.
It fell from popularity for some time but in recent years has experienced a resurgence, becoming a favorite of drinkers alike who embrace the boozy bittersweet cocktail. If you’re a fan, try these delicious riffs.
The most typical iteration of the classic cocktail calls for gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth in equal parts, though some bar pros prefer one-and-a-half parts gin, and some even up it to two parts. Whichever proportions you most prefer, it’s still a delicious drink, a perfect mix of crisp, sweet and bitter.
Though its name translates to “mistaken Negroni,” this take on the classic is nothing short of sophisticated. The Sbagliato swaps gin for a sparkling Italian wine, rendering it the perfect effervescent aperitivo. This recipe gives quantities for a large batch, but it can be scaled down to a single serving if you’re not preparing it for a group.
The standard template of base spirit, aromatized wine, and bitter liqueur holds in this version of the Negroni, except a bitter French aperitif and blanc vermouth are introduced in place of sweet vermouth and red-hued Campari, making the cocktail lighter in color. Suze, the French aperitif, can taste abrasive on its own, so the balance of a full-bodied and sweet blanc fortified wine—Lillet blanc, specifically—is essential for balance.
One of the most popular spirits in the bar world right now is mezcal, and it makes a perfect match with Campari and sweet vermouth in a Negroni. The rich, smoky, earthy profile of the mezcal goes head-to-head with the boldness of the Campari for a complex and flavorful expression of the Negroni.Continue to 5 of 11 below.
This variation from New York City bartending pro Joaquín Simó swaps in a flavorful and funky Jamaican overproof rum in place of the Negroni's usual gin and calls for an equally powerful sweet vermouth. Alongside the typical Campari, the drink's flavors work in harmony to complement and temper each other, making for a simple yet remarkable twist on the classic.
Created just a few years after the original, this Negroni riff has become a classic in its own right. In his 1927 book “Barflies and Cocktails,” Harry MacElhone credits Erskine Gwynne, the publisher of Paris expat magazine “Boulevardier,” with the drink. It merely swaps out the gin in favor of bourbon or rye, a simple switch that changes the flavor profile from crisp and bitter to rich and warming.
The ultimate warming pick-me-up, this Negroni twist from New York City bartending pro Pam Wiznitzer infuses Campari with coffee before using it in an otherwise fairly traditional recipe for the drink.
South by Southwest
This Negroni twist earned a place in Gary Regan’s book on the classic cocktail by swapping in peaty Ardbeg 10-year-old whisky for the usual gin and adding a delicate misting of orange blossom water to balance the smoke from the Islay scotch.Continue to 9 of 11 below.
This recipe by Kevin Diedrich of San Francisco’s Pacific Cocktail Haven (PCH) employs coconut-oil-washed Campari and a pandan cordial that may be best suited to experienced home bartenders, but the resulting cocktail, a tropical-leaning version of the classic, is worth the extra effort.
In short, this cocktail is a Negroni with an absinthe rinse. You'd be forgiven for assuming the result is merely the Negroni’s bittersweetness plus a hint of anise-flavored liqueur, but in actuality, this cocktail is far more than the sum of its parts. The absinthe lends both brightness and depth to the drink, taking the classic Negroni into another dimension.
One of the most popular cocktails in Italy in the early 1900s, and the predecessor to the Negroni, is the Americano. When made properly, it’s one of the most memorable cocktails that you’ll ever try, and it’s also incredibly simple to make, an easy mix of Campari, sweet vermouth, and soda water. Chill your rocks or highball glass, make sure your high-quality soda water is icy cold, measure properly and garnish with an orange twist or half-wheel.