The negroni has long been a classic cocktail and one enjoyed by many around the world. It has the perfect combination of sweetness versus bitterness and an evocative deep red colour. However, a recent post by a social media influencer has exposed the drink to a brand-new audience. But what is the negroni’s history, how do you make one and what are the different variants that you can try?
A Historic Drink
While none of the stories surrounding the birth of the negroni have been verified, most seem to centre around an Italian gentleman named Count Camillo Negroni. He was an eminent figure of Florence high society in the 1920s and often seen frequenting the bar of Café Casoni in the city.
The Count is said to have regularly sipped on a classic Americano cocktail: a mixture of bitter Campari, sweet vermouth and soda immortalised by Ian Fleming in his first James Bond novel Casino Royale. However, wanting something a little stronger, Negroni requested the bartender replace the soda with a measure of gin.
The rest is history, as they say. The drink became part of the bar’s menu after numerous customers asked what The Count was drinking; The Negroni being the bartender’s reply. The story is contested by descendants of one General Pascal de Negroni, a Brigadier General in the French army during the mid- to late 1800s. He is said to have concocted the drink to combat digestive problems he suffered in later life.
How Do You Make a Negroni?
The negroni may be classic but it is also one of the simplest and most uncomplicated cocktails to make. You need just three ingredients: gin, bitter aperitif and sweet red vermouth. These are measured in equal parts directly into a tumbler glass and then stirred gently together for a short time with large chunks or cubes of ice. Garnish with fresh or dried orange zest and serve.
The Classic Negroni
It’s difficult to beat a classic. The negroni traditionally uses a combination of London Dry gin alongside Campari as the bitter aperitif and Martini Rosso as the sweet red vermouth. Negroni aficionados will insist on the gin being added first, followed by the vermouth and finally the bitter aperitif.
A tumbler, rocks or Old-Fashioned glass should also be used, along with a fresh orange slice as garnish. Other gin styles, bitters or vermouths can naturally be swapped out for the household names.
The Negroni Sbagliato
The Sbagliato, and its featuring on a popular Youtube video (which later went viral on TikTok), is responsible for the recent huge upsurge of interest in the negroni.
This variation came about by accident at Bar Basso in Milan when owner Mirko Stochetto inadvertently added prosecco to the cocktail instead of gin. He poured the measures of vermouth and Campari into a glass, then picked up the wine bottle, which had mistakenly been placed where the gin should have been.
His customer tasted it and loved it, later christening the drink as a ‘negroni sbagliato‘, translating to ‘wrong negroni’.
The Negroni Torbato
This variant takes the negroni in a very different direction with the use of smoky Scotch whisky instead of gin. The word ‘torbato‘ translates as ‘peaty’ from Italian and it is a peaty single malt or blended whisky – think of Johnnie Walker Black Label or Lagavulin 16 years old – that you need here.
The earthy and medicinal notes of the Scotch work incredibly well with the deep flavours of the Campari and red vermouth. Again, mix in equal parts to create this intense cocktail.
Not one for the fainthearted but perfect for a cold, damp evening.
The Spiced Negroni
This modern interpretation adds a little extra spice to your negroni. The bitter aperitif and sweet red vermouth remain but the gin is replaced with a spiced rum. The result is a real winter warmer and great for festive times of the year such as Christmas or Thanksgiving.
A regular gold or dark rum can also be used, but the spices add incredible depth and complexity to the cocktail. A tiny splash of sloe gin or ginger liqueur make it even more festive, then garnish with an orange slice.
The White Negroni
Created by Wayne Collins in 2001, the ‘negroni bianco‘ is not quite as dry, bitter and heavy as the traditional red negroni, so it’s perfect for sipping on a hot day. To make it you need to ditch the Campari and Martini Rosso for a white bitter (such as Suze or Luxardo Bitter Bianco) and sweet white vermouth like Cinzano Bianco or Lillet Blanc.
The quantities remain the same (one equal measure of each), as does the mixing and garnish, although replacing the orange with a slice of lemon or grapefruit works superbly too.
For the Boulevardier you simply replace the gin in your negroni with a whiskey, most commonly bourbon or rye.
The first records of the cocktail appeared in the book Barflies and Cocktails of 1927, just a few years after the original negroni was initially served at Café Casoni in Florence. It was said to have been created for Erskine Gwynne, an American expatriate, who was a regular at the New York Bar in Paris. He also edited a monthly magazine called The Boulevardier, which later gave the drink its name.