For years we’ve seen the rising Italian influence on modern cocktails. While whiskey and bourbon still likely reign supreme, there’s been a growing fervor around Italian spirits like the aperitivo or amaro. The Aperol Spritz had its moment in the limelight but one particular cocktail seems to have continued apace: the Negroni. This extremely simple, boozy, three-ingredient cocktail is an essential item on any cocktail bar’s menu and has quickly become the go-to for many home bartenders. It’s easy to make, bracingly bitter and refreshing, and versatile enough for some variations. We’re here to present you with a brief history of the rise in popularity of the Negroni and a comprehensive guide to the Negroni recipe.
The History of the Negroni
There isn’t a clear inception point for the Negroni but most historians suppose that this bitter cocktail originated in Florence, Italy in the early 1900s at Caffe Casoni. Other bitter Italian beverages were enjoyed around that time so it’s likely that the Negroni was simply a riff on an alternate cocktail. It’s reported that the Negroni was a boozier version of the popular Americano drink — frequently enjoyed by American tourists — which consisted of campari, vermouth, and soda water.
While the Negroni earned mild popularity throughout the 20th century as the recipe passed around the world, it wasn’t until the early to mid-2000s that the drink would take over the cocktail world. Variations on the Negroni popped up in the early 2000s and by 2013 Campari and Imbibe magazine would team up to organize an annual celebration of the cocktail: Negroni Week. Now, the Negroni is a must-have on bar menus and, in our opinion, is a drink everyone should know how to make.
Negroni Cocktail Ingredients
Because a Negroni is an aperitivo — a bitter beverage typically enjoyed before a meal (à la the French aperitif) — Campari, one of Italy’s most famous aperitivi, has historically been the base of this drink. However, any red bitter booze will work just fine. While Aperol springs to mind, it possesses more of a sweetness than you might want in a Negroni (save it for the Spritz). Instead, some good alternatives include Cappelletti, Meletti, or Contratto. Additionally, we’re quite fond of the offerings from Faccia Brutto, St. Agrestis, and Forthave. Still, we think a bottle of Campari is an essential addition to your bar cart.
And, if you want to get creative with your Negroni cocktails, try subbing in one of your favorite amari, particularly those with low sweetness.
Because the Negroni is such a botanical cocktail, your choice of gin can really elevate or hinder your experience. Additionally, the Negroni is pure booze – so make sure you take into count how hefty your gin is. In a Negroni, we’d suggest trying Barr Hill Gin, Nikka Coffey, or Tanqueray London Dry Gin.
If you’re looking to experiment with your Negroni, this is perhaps the best place. The original recipe calls for sweet red vermouth but swapping in a dry or a bianco can offer unique and delightful results. Still, if you’d prefer to the classics, we’d recommend trying Cocchi, Carpano Antico, or Martini & Rossi. Lo-Fi Aperitifs and Capitoline Rosé.
How to Make a Negroni Cocktail
It doesn’t get much easier than this simple three-ingredient cocktail. In a pinch, you can just build this in the glass. But, we’d recommend opting for a dedicated mixing glass to get the most out of this invigorating bitter drink.
- Combine one ounce each of Campari, gin, and vermouth in a mixing glass.
- Add ice and stir until chilled, about 15 seconds.
- Strain into an ice-filled rocks glass.
- Garnish with an orange slice (or orange peel).
5 Negroni Variations to Try
While this cocktail might translate to “wrong Negroni,” the Negroni Sbagliatto is oh so right. Swap in prosecco or sparkling water instead of gin for a fizzy, refreshing alternative to the classic.
The rise of the White Negroni has been credited with kicking off the modern resurgence of the Negroni. Whether or not that’s true, this is an excellent and worthy variation of the classic Negroni. Use Suze and Lillet blanc instead of Campari and sweet vermouth for a lighter, sweeter, and unique twist on the Negroni.
A few years ago, Mezcal hit the cocktail scene and has since become a stalwart among aficionados. As it turns out, the smoky Mexican spirit is perfect for the bitter refreshing Negroni. Mezcal replaces gin in this drink and adds a new dynamic to the cocktail.
This is one of those variations that almost different enough to classify simply as a new cocktail, like the Boulevardier. But, the Negroni roots run deep in this boozy delicious beverage. Use dry vermouth instead of sweet and swap in your favorite rye whiskey for the gin.
Cold Brew Coffee Negroni
Swap in some cold brew concentrate for the gin and you’ll wind up with a boozy, caffeinated drink perfect for energizing your night.