The Italian count Camillo Negroni inspired the invention of his namesake cocktail in 1919. Visiting the Cassoni Cafe in Florence, he requested a libation that had more punch than the popular drink of the day, the Americano (a mix of Campari, sweet vermouth and soda water). Bartender Fosco Scarselli swapped the soda water for gin, added an orange garnish (instead of the usual lemon) and the rest is history.
The Negroni has become a classic thanks to the simplicity of its recipe: equal parts gin, sweet red vermouth and bitters. It’s the use of dry, herbal bitters that help to make the Negroni such a good aperitif. However the strong, bitter taste can be off-putting for some cocktail lovers.
But another benefit of having a simple recipe (see below) is that you can easily play with the mix of ingredients, as long as you keep the ratio the same. Campari is the usual choice for a Negroni, but you could try using sweeter Aperol and a rosé vermouth for a less punchy cocktail.
Alternatively, try a White Negroni made with gin, Lillet vermouth and Suze (a gentian-based French bitter).
Whatever the style, your choice of gin plays a key role in a Negroni and helps to influence the final taste. Juniper-led London Dry styles work best: you’re looking for something that will stand up to the strong, bitter flavours of the Campari, as well as the herbal vermouth. So avoid choosing the styles of gin that are best suited to a Martini.
Alongside the obvious juniper component of London Dry, gins with distinctive botanicals – whether that’s citrus, spice or herbs – can add character to your Negroni.
And finally: don’t worry if you don’t have the correct cocktail kit listed below to make a Negroni at home – and there’s no need to get hung up on exact measurements. The easy 1:1:1 part recipe means you can use anything to measure out your holy trinity of ingredients, as long as the quantities are equal. Pour them straight into your glass, add ice and stir with whatever is at hand – even your finger!
How to make a Negroni
Garnish: Orange peel
Method: Pour the gin, vermouth and Campari into a mixing glass or shaker filled with ice and stir to mix. Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice and garnish.
30ml sweet vermouth
Best gins for a Negroni
Beefeater London Dry
A crowd-pleasing classic for a good reason, Beefeater is a good value London dry with bags of juniper character. Its recipe features nine botanicals: juniper, Seville orange peel, lemon peel, angelica root and seed, coriander seed, orris root, liquorice root and almond. The end result is a rounded, balanced, traditional gin that’s right at home in a Negroni. Alc 40%
Four Pillars Spiced Negroni Gin
Hands down, this Australian gin is my all-time favourite for a Negroni, with botanicals including Tasmanian pepperberry, cinnamon and ginger. Very fresh and punchy on the nose, with clean citrus; the palate offers an immediate spice hit, with cardamom and coriander seeds, plus a lingering spicy finish. Makes the ultimate classic Negroni. Alc 43.8%
Hailing from Germany’s Black Forest, Monkey has a whopping 47 botanicals (the clue’s in the name…) They include six different types of pepper, cloves, hawthorn berries, lavender and fruity lingonberries, which create a melange of fruit, spice and herbs on the structured palate. With big and complex flavours – but still balanced – Monkey 47 works well in a whole range of classic gin cocktails, including a Negroni. Alc 47%
Cold-distillation using frozen citrus peels gives Oxley its USP. Herbaceous aromas with punchy citrus and dry spice, lead to a very spicy palate, rounded out by sweet orange notes. A bartender favourite; pair it with Martini Rosso Vermouth and Martini Bitter in your Negroni. Alc 47%
Portobello Road No 171
This traditional London Dry gin from London’s Notting Hill is an old-style classic that fits perfectly in a Negroni. The nose is juniper-led with white pepper and lemon citrus; while the palate has a clean, focused juniper character, with a nicely judged overlay of spice. Alc 42%
Plymouth Navy Strength
This over-proof gin was supplied to the British Royal Navy for almost 200 years and it will certainly keep your Negroni afloat. A bold style with a classic mix of botanicals including: juniper, orange and lemon peel, angelica root, orris root and cardamom. Juniper-led with bright zesty citrus on the palate. Alc 57%
Rutte Dry Gin
The Dutch kick-started our global love-affair with juniper spirits: their genever eventually became gin when it arrived in the UK. Made in the Netherlands, Rutte’s botanical mix includes fennel, which adds a pleasing herbal note to the palate that complements the vermouth in a Negroni. Alc 43%
Tanqueray No. 10
With its citrus-led botanical mix of lemons, oranges and blood grapefruit, Tanqueray is beautifully balanced, which makes it a great choice for cocktails and a versatile addition to your home bar. Ten takes its name from the number 10 pot still – nicknamed Tiny Ten – where it’s distilled. Adds citrus character to your Negroni, picking up on the orange garnish. Alc 47.3%
Originally published November 2020 and updated in 2021.