Sometimes reinventing the wheel is fun. Other times, you just want a classic Italian aperitif. When that's the case, it doesn't get better than a Negroni. Here's how to make a great one.
Why we love this recipe
If you ask me, the Negroni is a perfect drink. It’s bracing and beautiful and balanced like a ballet dancer en pointe. This classic recipe is:
- Stiff, bitter, a little bit sweet, and a little bit herbal
- A gorgeous, party-dress red
- An absolute staple of Italian culture
What you'll need
Here's a glance at the ingredients you'll need to make this recipe.
- You'll start with a good London dry gin, which contributes bracing strength and herbal notes. You can refer to the section below for my recommendations if you don't already have a favorite in mind.
- Luckily, there's nothing more straightforward than buying a ruby-red bottle of Campari. This Italian bittersweet aperitif has a smooth yet complex flavor profile, with notes of rhubarb, clove, orange, cinnamon, and cherry. It's bitter and herbal and a little astringent and just so good.
- True to its name, sweet vermouth does bring a bit of sweetness to this drink. But it also tastes of bark and spice and has a little bit of acidity. You've got several great options. You can't go wrong with my favorite Carpano Antica. Other good choices: Punt e Mes (which is more bitter), Cocchi Storico Vermouth di Torino (well-balanced), and even Dolin.
- An orange slice or twist is the traditional garnish, and I like to use the simplest variation for this straightforward drink. Just grab your vegetable peeler and swipe a thin, mostly pith-free sliver of peel from a well-washed orange.
What gin is best for a Negroni?
I've been an almost reflexive fan of Bombay Sapphire since I started drinking gin, and it makes a great Negroni. It's a smooth, super-drinkable midpriced London Dry that thrives in a wide variety of cocktails. That said, my personal affinity has as much to do with timing as anything. Diageo sold the brand to Bacardi in 1997, and I graduated from college and moved to NYC in 1998. Sapphire was everywhere and felt fancy to me then. The rest is history.
I also tend to have a bottle of either Hendricks or Tanqueray on hand at all times and often use one of those in this Italian aperitif. Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin, Plymouth, The Botanist, and Aviation would all make great choices, too.
How to make it
Here's an overview of what you'll do to make a fabulous Negroni. You can see the steps in action in the video that accompanies this post, and get all the details in the recipe card below.
- Place plenty of ice into a mixing glass and pour in the gin.
- Add vermouth and Campari.
- Stir well until chilled.
- Strain into an ice-filled single old-fashioned glass, garnish with twist of orange peel or a small slice of orange, and serve.
Expert tips and FAQs
As with many classic cocktails, the precise origin of the Negroni isn’t known for sure. But here’s the oft-cited rumor:
The Negroni was invented in Florence, Italy, circa 1919, at what was then called Caffè Casoni and now goes by Giacosa Caffè (or Caffè Cavalli, since Roberto Cavalli restored the café in 2002 while opening his clothing boutique next door).
Count Camillo Negroni wanted a stronger version of his favorite Americano, and bartender Forsco Scarselli complied, swapping in gin for the soda water (and an orange twist for the lemon twist).
A few years ago on his site Drinks and Drinking, Jason O’Bryan, a San Diego-based bartender and writer, nailed it. (Pun totally intended. Wait for it.) He said,
“I get it, no one looks for the best Negroni because saying ‘best Negroni’ is a little like saying ‘best orgasm’ — yeah, there are shades of difference there, some better than others, but even a terrible one is still better than almost everything else in the world. But. If you could have the best one every time, wouldn’t you?”
Jason O’Bryan, it’s hard to argue with that. (He recommends Tanqueray and Cocchi Storico, in case you're still reading.)
You sure can. To make eight drinks: Up to 24 hours before serving time, stir together in a pitcher 1 ½ cups gin, 1 ½ cups red vermouth, 1 ½ cups Campari, and ½ cup cold water. Cover and chill until serving time. Prepare glasses and garnishes right before serving.
More favorite Negroni variations
- 1 ½ ounces (45 ml) gin
- 1 ½ ounces (45 ml) sweet vermouth (rosso)
- 1 ½ ounces (45 ml) Campari
- Orange twist or slice, to garnish
- Place plenty of ice into a mixing glass.
- Pour in the gin, vermouth, and Campari.
- Stir well until chilled.
- Strain into an ice-filled single old-fashioned glass.
- Garnish with twist of orange peel or a small slice of orange, and serve.
- If you like, you can batch this Italian aperitif for a party. To make eight drinks: Up to 24 hours before serving time, stir together in a pitcher 1 ½ cups gin, 1 ½ cups red vermouth, 1 ½ cups Campari, and ½ cup cold water. Cover and chill until serving time. Prepare glasses and garnishes right before serving.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 206