The three-part Negroni is a classic cocktail dating back to the early 20th century, when it was supposedly invented by the Italian Count Camillo Negroni in Florence, Italy. It’s come a long way since then. Today, the Negroni transcends time and place, having become a ubiquitous fixture at bars and in drinkers’ hearts.
But that doesn’t mean it can’t be tweaked. Creative barkeeps have been making the Negroni their own for years, experimenting with various spirits and modifiers and tweaking the typical equal-parts ratio. One such riff was so successful that it has taken on a life of its own.
The White Negroni was invented in 2001 by British bartender Wayne Collins at VinExpo, a beverage trade show in Bordeaux, France. He wanted to create a Negroni riff that featured gin but not Campari or sweet vermouth. To replace those two stalwarts, he reached for a couple of French ingredients: Suze, a bittersweet gentian liqueur and Lillet Blanc, a wine-based aperitif. The former plays the role of bittering agent, similar to Campari, while the latter does the work of the vermouth.
Collins’ cocktail was a hit. Bartenders took note, and the White Negroni made its way to bars around the globe, perhaps most notably to Pegu Club in New York, where it earned a spot on the bar’s menu. This placement was a gold star for street cred and helped introduce the cocktail to countless drinkers. The White Negroni then made its way to other notable bars, including PDT, the acclaimed speakeasy, and Dante, which pours an entire roster of Negronis.
Originally mixed with equal parts of each ingredient, just like the classic Negroni, the common recipe today ups the gin and dials back the Suze. The result is a drink that is bitter and bracing, just like you want your Negroni to be. But it’s also light and floral, with a hint of sweetness.
1 1/2 ounces gin
1 ounce Lillet blanc
1/2 ounce Suze gentian liqueur
Garnish: lemon twist
Add the gin, Lillet blanc and Suze into a mixing glass with ice and stir for 15 to 20 seconds until well-chilled.
Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice.
Garnish with a lemon twist.