There aren’t many food things that have stayed deeply popular for 100 years. Heinz ketchup, corn flakes, and the Negroni are just about it. You could argue there are ketchups, and then there is Heinz, and you can definitely say the same about cocktails; there are cocktails, then there is the Negroni, the definitive cocktail.
No other cocktail is as tasty and refreshing in summer, as cheerful and pretty during the holidays, and so easy and simple to make into countless variations.
For me, a Negroni is the ultimate christmas cocktail. Firstly, you can make a lot of it at the same time, should you have a larger group. Secondly, it’s pretty and colorful. And finally, it’s perfect with a little spice should you want to go there. I’m sure it’s blasphemous to some, but give me a Negroni over gluhwein or eggnog with rum any day.
Some people will say they don’t like Negronis, or that they are too bitter or too sweet. I’m here to say that’s because most likely you had your first Negroni at a bar that didn’t care. Here is how to make Negroni the right way, so you can see why it’s the most popular cocktail of the last 100 years and looking to be the most popular cocktail for the next 100 too.
A Negroni is a slightly bitter and sweet aperitif tasting drink that packs a huge punch, unlike most aperitifs. It’s perfect as a cocktail or even during dinner, as the bitter notes highlight the flavors of food really well, in my experience.
The historical tale of the invention of the Negroni goes that a count named Camillo Negroni wanted something stronger than his usual drink, which was a Mi-To (named after the twin cities of Milano and Torino, later named the Americano because Americans loved it so much during WW1). A Mi-To was made up of campari, vermouth, and soda, so to make the drink stronger, he subbed gin for the zero ABV soda, and just like that, magic was made.
The classic Negroni recipe is equal parts gin, campari, and red vermouth, built over ice and served with an orange peel garnish.
Although most sources will tell you that a Negroni has 3 ingredients, a Negroni actually has 5 ingredients: gin, campari, vermouth, ice, and orange peel.
Most people splurge on the gin, and in most bars you’ll find they are very proud of the gin they use, but I disagree, I think the gin is important, but the punch of the campari and vermouth pretty much kill any subtle herbal nuances good gin will get you. Here I use whatever gin I have on hand, which right now is Gordon’s, but usually I use Beefeater.
Not to be a brand shill, but Campari is absolutely needed for a proper Negroni. Accept no substitutes.
Here is where, in my opinion, the biggest difference between a good and a great Negroni is made. I try to stay away from the bottom shelf vermouth such as Martini. I’d rather spend my money on a good vermouth over a top shelf gin any day. My favorites are Punt e Mes, Cocchi Torino, and especially Carpano Antica. When I first started drinking Negronis, for some reason Punt e Mes was $75+. I was over the moon when we were in Buenos Aires one year and they were the equivalent of (at the time ) $5 a bottle. I brought home 6, I think. It’s thankfully gone down in price as it’s gone up in popularity since then.
Of the three, I really like Carpano Antica because it comes in a smaller bottle. Vermouth is a wine based liqueur, which means the moment you open it, it starts to degrade. You should keep vermouth in the fridge, and buy only a size you know you can finish in under a month.
You know the old maxim never cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink? My experience is that most people have never tasted vermouth on its own. The difference in price between a higher end vermouth and a bottle shelf vermouth is usually just a few dollars, but the taste difference is out of this world.
Invest in a good 2” covered ice cube tray for your cocktails. You don’t need to go crazy and make clear ice, but traditionally, old fashioneds were served with large ice cubes. A covered ice cube tray protects your ice from any stray freezer smells.
One of the key parts of a Negroni is the orange peel, which complements the campari and adds a bit of acid to offset the sweetness of the vermouth, especially if you took my advice and got a more premium vermouth, which tends to be sweeter. When I was younger, I skipped the orange peel (because you needed a fresh orange, which I never had) and the first time I tried it, I was amazed at the difference it made. Should you squeeze, spritz, flame, or otherwise mess with the orange peel? That’s up to you, but I prefer the subtle purity of a clean orange peel myself.
Please never shake a Negroni.
A Negroni should never be served up or in a flute. Properly it should be in a low ball/rocks/old fashioned bar glass. A correctly sized Negroni is 3oz plus ice, so a double glass is just about the right size.
If you’re at all a drinker, you’ll find the classic 1:1:1 ratio of a Negroni a little cloyingly sweet. If you aren’t a drinker, you might find it really bitter. Once I served a Negroni for the first time to a wine snob friend of mine who had never had one. This was in the dark ages when appletinis were popular. He found it unbearably bitter, though in the decades since, he’s started serving them before dinner.
But if you prefer your Negroni on the modern balanced side, my go-to Negroni recipe that I’ve been drinking for years is 3/4 oz Carpano Antica Formula Vermouth, 3/4oz Campari, and 1.5oz gin.
The Negroni itself was a variation, so it should stand that variations on a Negroni are just as good. Here are two of my favorites:
I like to swap the gin for a sparkling wine (correctly, Prosecco) when I have some for a lighter, fizzier, more fun cocktail. This one is great both in summer and during the holidays, especially if you love the taste but don’t want to be completely wasted around family.
I used to order this one in bars exclusively, and for the first few years, no bartender really knew what it was. Then, overnight, it was more popular on bar menus than the Negroni – which is either off-menu at most places or served with some variation, like sake. A boulevardier swaps the herbaceous gin for earthy, spiced bourbon, which makes for a darker drink that’s kind of the lovechild of a Negroni and a Manhattan, combining them into the best of both worlds, like New York Italian food.
The Negroni is one of my favorite cocktails of all time, and I’ve been drinking this version for decades. I hope you give it a try, especially with the right vermouth.
What it lacks in the purity of equal measures, it gains in deliciousness
5 from 1 vote
Prepare a rocks glass with a large ice cube. Peel a 1” x 4” strip of orange peel and trim the edges. Twirl around a chopstick or skewer if desired.
Build the drink over ice.
Stir for 30 seconds or until cold, garnish with the prepared orange peel, then enjoy immedidate.
My Best Negroni
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat 0.01g0%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.