The Negroni cocktail has seen a huge surge in popularity in recent years, to the point that ‘Are you a Martini or Negroni person’ has become a valid question sparking strong debate in the drinks world. So let's get into it!
What is a Negroni
So, what is a Negroni? A Negroni is an aperitif of Italian descent, which you would normally drink before a meal, although it is now commonplace to have them as a casual drink out and at home, due to how easy it is to make one. Whereas in the UK we may be familiar with happy hour, in Italy they have aperitivo hour, to celebrate the start of the evening with small plates and bitter drinks to open the palate for the main meal without filling you up.
The History of the Negroni
Negronis are made mixing equal parts gin, rosso (red) vermouth and Campari or equivalent, a liqueur infused with aromatic plants, bitter herbs and fruit. There is no definitive proof as to the creation of this cocktail. However, the most widely acknowledged story is that it was made by request of Count Camillo Negroni in Florence, Italy in 1919. The Count was visiting the Caffe Casoni and requested his favourite cocktail, an Americano (Vermouth, Campari and Soda) from bartender, Forsco Scarselli. However, he asked that the drink be made stronger by replacing the soda with gin. Scarselli used an orange garnish in place of lemon that garnished Americanos to define it as a different drink. To this day, it is essential for a Negroni to have a slice of orange or peel. The drink was an immediate hit and in the same year, the family set up the Negroni Distillery, producing ready-made Negronis. The distillery still operates today.
So Simple to Make
The Negroni is another simple cocktail like the Old Fashioned, in fact, it’s even simpler. For unlike the Old Fashioned, there is no method as such, it’s as simple as equal measures of the ingredients in the glass and giving it a quick stir to mix, in some cases with a finger.
Why Quality Ingredients Matter
With this in mind, making a good Negroni lies solely in the quality of the ingredients and the ratio of the measures. That said, due to gin being a component, it is possible to achieve variation to the flavour. As most drinks enthusiasts know, there is an enormous wealth of gins out there. And nowadays there are ones made especially for Negronis too.
Strong dry gins with herbaceous notes will hold their weight to the other elements but it’s always worth experimenting. It’s also worth considering what vermouth you’re using. Vermouth is on the up at the moment, with companies bringing out high quality products naturally sweetened by balanced botanicals rather than heavy on the wormwood and sweetened with sugar.
Vermouths like Cocchi Storico di Torino with notes of chocolate and bitter orange work wonderfully with Campari. Sweet vermouths play their part to strike a balance, offsetting a little bit of that Campari bitterness, a flavour people really either love or hate and one that is acknowledged to be an acquired taste.
How to Lighten Up a Negroni
Negroni’s are a strong cocktail, being made of all alcoholic ingredients. That and the bitter taste means each one packs a real punch! For a longer, slower drink, they can be lengthened with the addition of soda/tonic. There are some great flavoured tonics out now including expressions like blood orange which work brilliantly. A personal favourite of mine is to use sparkling water as this does very little to change the flavour and each sip is a celebration of the Negroni in all its glory.
Variations on the Negroni
There are some interesting variants of the drink. The Negroni Sbagliato was born when a bartender accidentally used sparking wine instead of gin. The word sbagliato has a loose english translation of ‘mistake’ which is a nod to its creation. The White Negroni is a slightly softer and earthy counterpart that was created in 2001 by Wayne Collins by substituting vermouth and Campari with Lillet Blanc and Suze gentian liqueur. Lighter, drier vermouths do a lot to change the flavour and it’s worth experimenting, Regal Rogue Lively White Vermouth is packed with notes of lemon myrtle, thyme, elderflower, grapefruit and chamomile, amongst others. And, there are variants using a different spirit to gin. The Boulevardier, a word meaning ‘a man about town’ is made using bourbon or rye and some say it has existed longer than the Negroni.
Make Your Own Negroni
Fancy making some at home? Well, it couldn’t be simpler, with a ‘Your Negroni Box’ you can pick and choose the component spirits to make your own tailored Negroni experience with a discount. There’s also an option to add a gift message, so this would make a great present for the Negroni lover in your life. Simply, pick, order and when it arrives make sure you have plenty of ice! Saluti!
Get inspired by Anthony Bourdain making his favourite negroni cocktail: