Last Updated on October 20, 2023 by Jo Fitzsimons
The story goes that the Negroni was first invented in a bar in Florence in 1919 when Italian Count Camillo Negroni asked a bartender to make his favourite cocktail, the Americano, stronger by replacing the soda water with gin. The resulting cocktail was named after the count. 100 years later, the Negroni is now one of the most famous drinks on cocktail menus across the world. Want to try making it yourself at home? In this article, you’ll find the classic Negroni recipe, as well as several of our favourite Negroni variations.
What is a Negroni?
The Negroni is a popular Italian cocktail often served as an aperitif before a big meal to stimulate the appetite. A classic Negroni is made with gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari. Presented in an old fashioned glass, the cocktail is distinguished by its signature ruby red colour and bold, bittersweet taste. Learn more about the art of Italian Aperitivo.
Negroni Ingredients – Classic Recipe
You can’t go wrong with the classic Negroni. All you need is equal parts gin, vermouth, and Campari.
Ingredients for Negroni:
- 60ml (1oz) gin
- 60ml (1oz) sweet vermouth
- 60ml (1oz) Campari
- Orange slices to garnish
How To Make A Negroni
The recipe for a Negroni is an easy one to master. On this occasion, we disagree with James Bond – make sure you stir, not shake, so you don’t water down the drink with ice.
- Add equal parts gin, vermouth, and Campari to a jug or glass with ice
- Stir well (don’t shake!)
- Strain into a chilled drinking glass with fresh ice
- Add an orange slice to garnish
What is Campari?
Campari is a distinctive dark red Italian bitter liqueur. Dating back over 150 years, it’s one of the most popular aperitifs in Italy and one of the best-known Italian liqueurs around the world.
The exact recipe is a tightly-guarded secret. But we do know that the liqueur is made from an infusion of fruit and herbs with alcohol and water. Similar to Aperol, it has a strong bittersweet flavour with notes of cherry, orange, clove, and cinnamon.
What’s the best gin for Negroni?
The choice of gin can greatly influence the final taste of your Negroni. The best gin depends on your personal preference.
London Dry Gin is the most common gin used in a Negroni. The dryness of the gin softens the sharpness of Campari, making the cocktail easier to drink. London Drys also tend not to be too complicated in flavour, yet their juniper and botanical notes can still stand up against the strong tastes of Campari and sweet vermouth. Tanqueray, Bombay Sapphire, and Beefeater London Dry are some of the best Negroni gins.
If you’re not a fan of dry gins, you could opt for something sweeter instead. Adding Hendricks Gin, Tanqueray No. 10, or Aviation gin will give your Negroni a softer flavour with sweeter and more floral notes.
What is the best vermouth for Negroni?
The type of vermouth can also change the taste of a Negroni.
The classic Negroni recipe calls for a red, sweet, Italian-style vermouth. The bitter flavour and bold spices in Italian sweet fortified wine are enough to hold up against the Campari. Try a classic Martini Rosso or Cinzano 1757 Rosso.
But swap this out for floral Spanish vermouth or dry French vermouth and you’ll certainly notice the difference.
The key to a great Negroni is to find a gin and vermouth pairing that compliments and stands up against the bold flavours of Campari. You may need to experiment with a few variations to discover your favourite.
Tip: Negroni can be a strong drink so take it easy. If you indulge a bit too much, check out our guides to help you back on your feet: How to Ease Your Hangover in 7 Simple Steps and 15 Best Hangover Foods (and Foods to Avoid).
5 Negroni Variations
The Negroni has long been a staple on most cocktail menus around the world. The cocktail is also the base on which many bartenders have left their own mark over its 100-year history.
Most variations of the Negroni involve swapping out the gin for another base spirit. You can also switch Vermouth for Lillet or sherry to alter the cocktail’s flavour slightly. Campari is occasionally swapped for a different bitter liqueur. But this is rare. Campari almost always stays put in Negroni recipes.
There are more variations of the Negroni than we could possibly recount here, but below are a few of our favourites. And if you prefer a sweeter cocktail, how about a Passion Fruit Martini with passion fruit and vanilla.
If you translate ‘sbagliato’ from Italian to English, it means ‘mistaken’. Which is exactly how this Negroni variation was first invented… by mistake. In the 70s, Mirko Stocchetto from Bar Basso in Milan accidentally added prosecco to a Negroni instead of gin, leading to the creation of the Negroni Sbagliato. Just mix equal parts prosecco, sweet vermouth, and Campari to make this unique prosecco cocktail.
Much like the classic Negroni cocktail, the Mezcal Negroni is made with three ingredients – mezcal, sweet vermouth, and Campari. Swapping out the gin for mezcal gives the drink a much earthier and smokier taste than the original. The Mezcal Negroni is believed to have originated in America in the early 2000s and is now a drinks menu staple in its own right.
Simply swap the gin for rum in the classic recipe and there you have it, a Rum Negroni. A good-quality dark rum softens the bitter and powerful taste of the classic Negroni. If you haven’t yet adjusted to the acquired taste of Negroni, the rum Negroni is a softer entry-level alternative.
The White Negroni is one of the few Negroni variations that doesn’t include Campari. Invented by bartender Wayne Collins in 2001, the White Negroni recipe consists of equal parts gin, Lillet Blanc (a French wine-based aperitif similar to sweet white vermouth), and Suze (a bitter gentian-based liqueur). The White Negroni still has the bitterness of the classic Negroni but is much lighter with pronounced floral notes.
Okay, so the Americano isn’t technically a Negroni variation. It actually existed prior to the Negroni and is the cocktail on which the original drink was based. Still a popular cocktail in its own right, the Americano consists of equal parts Campari, sweet vermouth, and soda water. It’s a lighter and less alcoholic alternative to the Negroni.
What does Negroni taste like?
Negroni has a bold, bittersweet taste with herby and rooty flavours (comparable to liquorice) and notes of dark fruit. Negroni can be a bit of an acquired taste. But give it a few chances and it may become your new favourite tipple.
Food pairings with Negroni
The classic Negroni is typically served as an aperitif before a meal to stimulate the appetite. It can be enjoyed with small bite-sized foods and snacks to become an aperitivo. The bitterness of Negroni pairs best with salty dishes, cured meats, and strong cheeses.
Some great food pairings with Negroni are:
- Salty cured pork such as prosciutto or salami
- Bacon-wrapped dates
- Strong, hard Italian cheeses
- Blue cheese
- Marinated olives
- Salted roasted nuts
- Crispy chickpeas
- Spicy kettle corn
- Dark chocolate with sea salt
Have you tried our classic Negroni recipe or any of the alternatives? Let us know in the comments below.
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