Italians are well known for enjoying an Aperitivo before a meal. An aperitivo is a pre-dinner cocktail meant to stimulate the taste buds before the meal. A simple and elegant cocktail, the classic Negroni is an excellent choice.
Travel throughout Italy, and you will see the Aperol Spritz everywhere. Restaurants in every square is Italy have scores of the ubiquitous drink on tables. Part trendy tourist drink, part refreshing aperitivo, the Spritz is the current favorite.
If it is trendy that you want, then grab the Aperol Spritz. But if you want the classic King of Italian aperitivo, pass on the Spritz and get a Negroni. The Negroni originated in Florence at the beginning of the twentieth century. It is a sweet, bitter treat for the senses.
There are many stories about the origin of the Negroni. The one that keeps coming up the most involves one Count Camillo Negroni. Seems he got bored of the Americano, a cocktail served at his favorite Florentine bar. The Americano is a blend of Campari, Vermouth, and soda water. He asked the bartender to replace the soda water with gin, and the classic Negroni was born.
There are many variations on the classic Negroni out there. Some are on the way to becoming classics themselves, but most are destined to be a fad or a bid for celebrity. The winner will always be the classic Negroni. The classic cocktails are classic for a reason, and the Negroni is no exception.
Made with three simple ingredients, garnish, and some ice. The Negroni is easy to make, challenging to master, and hard to resist.
Easy to make
The basic Negroni is equal parts Campari, Gin and Sweet Vermouth, served over ice with an orange peel garnish. Start with one ounce each of gin, sweet vermouth and Campari. Serve it over ice, stirred, and with an orange peel garnish. Boom! Classic Negroni. No complicated formulas to remember, no difficult to find ingredients to add. Part of the basic repertoire of any bartender, the classic Negroni is almost perfect in its simplicity.
Vermouth is a fortified wine that has been around since the early part of the nineteenth century. As a fortified wine, it’s alcohol content is slightly higher than a table wine. Vermouth is produced widely throughout Italy, France, and Spain (called Vermut). Makers all have their own recipe, often a well guarded secret. Vermouth comes in both ‘sweet’ and ‘dry’ varieties, which relate to the sugar content of the vermouth. The Negroni uses a ‘sweet’ vermouth to counterbalance the ‘bitter’ of the Campari.
Gin is a broad category of alcoholic beverages that derives its basic flavor from the juniper berry. Known since the middle ages, gin can be produced in a variety of methods and use a variety of botanicals to add additional flavor. This leads to a wide variation in the flavor of various gins. That in turn can lend some difficulty in finding the right gin ‘partner’ for a cocktail.
The third essential ingredients of a Negroni is Campari. Originating in the 1860s, Campari is a bitter spirit made from an infusion of bitter herbs, aromatic plants and fruit in alcohol. It has a characteristic deep red color and bitter flavor. It is Campari that gives the Negroni a distinctive ‘bitter’ element.
Challenging to Master
While there is only one Campari, there are many possible combinations for the other ingredients. There are many vermouths to choose from, even if you only consider the sweet varieties. And for every vermouth, there are another dozen gins to choose from. Getting the perfect Negroni is a result of the right marriage between the gin and the vermouth.
Over the last several years, I have tried many many different combinations. Believe it or not, that has resulted in a lot of BAD Negronis. Not all gin/vermouth combinations are destined for a good Negroni. Perhaps the worst Negroni I ever had was in a hotel bar in Florida where they paired a well known French brand vermouth with a house made gin. Horrible.
So what is the best gin/vermouth/Campari combination? Ultimately that is up to you and your own preferences. However, I think it would be hard to go wrong if you started with the one I have settled on as my favorite. After years of dedication to research, I have landed on the following combination. Tanqueray Gin, Carpano’s Antica Formula Vermouth and Campari make the best Negroni.
All three of these ingredients are well established and well known. Nothing particularly esoteric about any of them. None is a newcomer to the market trying to launch some new trend. All are tried and true and can easily be found in any reasonably well stocked liquor store.
Beyond the blend of liquors though, I have also tweaked the classic ratio a bit to more suit my own tastes. I’m not breaking new ground here. There are a good number of Negroni recipes that mess with the basic 1:1:1 formula. For my part, I prefer a bit more gin compared to the other ingredients.
Hard to resist
I am a fan of 1 ¼ ounce Tanqueray, 1 ounce Antica Formula, 1 ounce Campari. Still served over ice. Stirred. Orange peel garnish. When I order an aperitivo, there is a good chance it will be a Negroni. The way that the bitter Campari plays with the sweet Vermouth and the astringent gin is darn near irresistible to me. I hope you give the Negroni a try and I hope that you enjoy it. Just remember to drink responsibly.
Classic Negroni – Italy’s King of Aperitivos
- 1 1/4 oz Tanqueray gin
- 1 oz Camparo Antica Formula vermouth
- 1 oz Campari
- orange peel about 3" long strip
- Add several ice cubes to an Old Fashioned glass
- Add Campari, vermouth and gin to the glass
- Stir gently until well combined
- Add orange peel and an additional ice cube
- Serve and enjoy!