The negroni wasn’t what had brought me to Hong Kong. But on a 2019 story assignment to traverse (via bus) the new trans-bay underwater highway linking the city with Macau and the Chinese mainland, it was the cocktail that fueled my journey. Unbeknownst to me before arrival, it was Negroni Week, an annual celebration of the cocktail in support of the Slow Food movement in cities around the world. In Hong Kong, restaurants and pubs across the city had negronis on special the entire time I was there. I’d never had one before that trip, but by the time I left, I considered myself somewhat of a connoisseur.
This iconic cocktail has stood the test of time and remains a classic favorite among discerning drinkers. It’s a perfect balance of sweet and bitter flavors that come together to create what is perhaps the only true “sessionable” cocktail that’s comprised almost entirely of booze. It’s such a classic, in fact, that the negroni has sprung an entire line of imitators, some of which come close to paralleling its epicness. These are those imitators.
What Does a Negroni Taste Like?
A negroni offers a well-balanced combination of bitterness, sweetness, and herbal notes. Its flavor profile is bold, complex, and often described as bittersweet with a hint of orange. The cocktail’s distinct bitter finish makes it a sophisticated choice when at fine dinners or happy hour gatherings.
What Is a Negroni Made Of?
A classic negroni is crafted using equal parts of gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari. The combination of these three ingredients creates a balanced yet bitter flavor profile that is unique to this iconic cocktail. Variations of the negroni can incorporate different spirits and liqueurs, offering a diverse range of taste experiences.
Is a Negroni Really Strong?
The negroni cocktail is a well-balanced drink, despite it’s relatively high alcohol content. The bitterness of Campari adds complexity and depth to the strong, bitter flavor profile of the classic negroni. It is meant to be sipped slowly and enjoyed.
Why Is the Negroni So Special?
The negroni cocktail holds a special place in the world of mixology due to its rich history and timeless appeal. Created in 1919 at Caffè Casoni in Florence, Italy, by a man named Count Camillo Negroni, this visually appealing cocktail with its red color, bitter flavor, and classic ingredients has gained a loyal following of cocktail enthusiasts around the world.
The Best Negroni Alternatives
The Boulevardier: A Whiskey-based Rendition of the Negroni
Experience the whiskey-forward flavor of the boulevardier, a classic cocktail perfect for whiskey enthusiasts. This sophisticated drink combines bourbon, sweet vermouth, and bitter Campari in a smooth and balanced profile. Immerse yourself in the warmth of bourbon, the sweetness of vermouth, and the bitterness of Campari, elevating your cocktail repertoire for when you want a delicious and balanced all-spirit cocktail.
- 1 ounce rye whiskey
- 1 ounce sweet vermouth
- 1 ounce Campari
How To Make a Boulevardier: To prepare a boulevardier, mix equal parts of bourbon, sweet vermouth, and bitter Campari in a mixing glass. Stir the ingredients with ice until well chilled. Strain the cocktail into a rocks glass, preferably over a large ice cube. Garnish the drink with an orange peel, expressing the oils over the glass for a citrusy aroma.
The Mezcal Negroni: A smoky twist
The smoky flavor of mezcal in the mezcal negroni makes this a unique variation of the classic cocktail. The depth of flavor the mezcal brings to the traditional negroni, elevating your cocktail experience with its distinct profile. The rich, smoky notes of the Mezcal negroni help to conceal the bitterness, making this a cocktail that caters to palates that prefer to taste the liquor more than the bitterness. The end result is a perfect balance of bitterness, sweetness, and smokiness.
- 1 ounce mezcal
- 1 ounce sweet vermouth
- 1 ounce Campari
How To Make a Mezcal Negroni: To prepare a mezcal negroni, mix equal parts of mezcal, sweet vermouth, and bitter Campari in a mixing glass. Stir the ingredients with ice until well chilled, then strain the cocktail into a rocks glass, preferably over a large ice cube. Garnish the drink with a grapefruit peel to add a citrusy twist to the smoky profile of the mezcal.
The Old Pal: A dry and bitter Negroni sibling
Experience the dry and bitter delight of the old pal, a close relative of the classic negroni. This cocktail boasts a perfect balance of rye whiskey, dry vermouth, and bitter Campari. The old pal’s complexity appeals to those who appreciate the sharpness of dry and bitter flavors. Immerse yourself in the sophistication of the rye whiskey, the dryness of the vermouth, and the bitterness of the Campari in this bold and assertive drink.
- 1.5 ounces rye whiskey
- .75 ounce dry vermouth
- .75 ounce Campari
How To Make an Old Pal: To prepare an old pal cocktail, fill a mixing glass with ice and pour in 1.5 ounces of rye whiskey, followed by .75 ounce each of dry vermouth and Campari. Stir well until chilled, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist if desired. Adjust the proportions to suit your taste preferences and experiment with variations like adding a dash of chocolate bitters for extra depth. Explore other cocktails similar to the negroni family, such as the boulevardier and the americano. Consider pairing your old pal with foods that complement its bold and bitter flavors, like charcuterie or aged cheeses.
The White Negroni: A lighter alternative
Not all negronis have to be dark and bitter. The refreshing twist of the white negroni is designed as a lighter alternative to the classic. Its delicate flavor profile highlights the gin above the rest of the ingredients while subtly blending sweet vermouth and lillet blanc with dry gin. The elegant flavors of the white negroni are perfect for those seeking a lighter and less bitter option.
- 1.5 ounces gin
- 1 ounce white vermouth
- .5 ounce Suze
How To Make a White Negroni: To make a white negroni, combine gin, Suze (a French bitter liqueur), and Lillet Blanc or white vermouth in a mixing glass with ice. Stir until well-chilled, then strain into a pre-chilled glass. For garnish, add a lemon twist or a sprig of fresh herbs like thyme or rosemary. The White Negorine is a delightful variation of the classic negroni cocktail, offering a lighter and more floral flavor profile that’s perfect for summer evenings.
With its vibrant red color and sparkling finish, the refreshing Campari spritz is sure to quench your thirst. Experience the perfect balance of sparkling wine, bitter Campari, and soda water, elevating your cocktail hour to new heights. Whether it’s a special occasion or a casual get-together, the Campari spritz is the perfect choice. This drink is popular across parts of the Mediterranean, and it’s easy to see why.
- 2 ounce Campari
- 3 ounce Prosecco
- Soda watter
How To Make a Campari Spritz: To prepare a Campari spritz, fill a wine glass with ice cubes. Combine the sparkling wine, soda water, and bitter Campari in the glass, gently stirring to combine. Garnish with an orange peel for a citrusy note. Indulge in the bubbly, bittersweet profile of the Campari spritz, a cocktail that perfectly captures the essence of the Italian aperitivo tradition.