May 31, 2018 / Rachel Eva
With Negroni week just around the corner, we've been stirring up a few more of one of our favorite drinks in anticipation... the NEGRONI, duh!
History of The Negroni Cocktail
The Negroni has become one of the godfathers of the suite of cocktails we call "classic." Any bartender worth the olive in your martini should know how to make one.
The cocktail is most commonly credited to Count Camillo Negroni, who decided he wanted an Americano with a bit more of a kick, and swapped the soda water out for gin. That was around 1920, at Caffe Rivoire in Florence, Italy. It's chronicled by Lucca Picchi, the head bartender there in his account, Sulle Tracce del Conte: La Vera Storia del Cocktail Negroni.
However, some evidence suggests that a version of the Negroni was created as early as 1857 by Count Pascal Negroni, a French officer stationed in Senegal, West Africa. Campari itself wasn't invented until 1860, but the Senegal-originated cocktail spread to become popular among both French officers and local imbibers by 1886, and was credited to contain Campari by at least 1914.
Negroni Recipe Variations
Though the Negroni recipe is one of the simplest you'll find (equal parts gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth), it's not our favorite version. I find it a bit too sweet, almost syrupy. Campari contributes not only the iconic bitter taste, but a huge amount of sugars as well (in addition to the sweet vermouth). One liter of Campari is reported to contain 253 grams of sugar, which is just over 25% of it's composition (wow!).
We opt for a Negroni with the following specs:
- 1.5 oz gin
- 1 oz Campari
- 1 oz Sweet Vermouth (we do a "short 1 oz" which is a bit between 3/4 and 1 full ounce)
As you can see, we just dial down the Campari and Vermouth (or increase the gin, if you want to read it that way), for a drier version that hits our palettes just right.
Sometimes we like to substitute the Campari in a Negroni for other amari to switch things up. Other orange-forward amari like Gran Classico and Luxardo Bitter are good choices, as they'll hint more at the Campari notes, but you'll be drinking a distinctly different cocktail.
Gran Classico will taste sweeter, not necessarily because there's more sugar, but because it's decidedly less bitter. For those of you who haven't crossed fully over to the bitter side, this delicious amaro may be the way to go!
Luxardo Bitter is a nice middle-of-the-road between the sharp, bold bitterness of Campari and the gentle, heavy build of Gran Classico.
One of our more recent delightful variations has been using St. George Bruto Americano in place of the Campari. It doesn't overwhelm the drink with bitterness, and has nice woody notes that pair beautifully with California citrus. Lance Winters, master distiller at St. George, likes to use Bruto Americano in a mezcal Negroni (swap the gin out for that smoky agave spirit!). That sounds so great, I think we'll make some this evening!
Not clear on Amaro? Read our Introduction to Amari for more on bitter liqueurs!
How to Make a Negroni
The Negroni Cocktail is a classic stirred drink - never shake a Negroni.
Tools & Equipment:
- Mixing Glass (our Hammered Mixing Glass is nice!)
- Barspoon (check out the Aero Cocktail Spoon or the Wingman Spinning Cocktail Spoon)
- Cocktail Glass (serve a Negroni on the rocks in an old fashioned glass, or strained into a cocktail coupe with no ice)
- Ice (for stirring and serving, if your Negroni will be on ice. We recommend some nice square cubes like those you can make with silicone ice cube trays).
Gin: a London dry gin is a staple Negroni choice, but feel free to use a more floral gin or even navy strength. Our advice: use what you have on hand, or can get to quickly.
Campari: readily available in most liquor stores; we recommend exploring other amaro alternatives for the adventurous and curious (see above). Of course, you should probably start with Campari!
Sweet Vermouth: We recommend Carpano Antica formula, or something a step up from Martini & Rossi - you'll have a drastically better experience :)
Orange Peel Garnish is traditional; use a lemon if you have no orange, or garnish with both if you're feeling fancy.