It’s Time to Have a Negroni
If you want to know more, read on. If you’re just here for a recipe, here it is. Mix away, and Cheers.
- 1 1/2 oz. Gin
- 1 1/2 oz. Campari
- 1 1/2 oz. Vermouth
- Garnish — orange slice or peel
Pour all ingredients into an Old Fashioned glass over plenty of ice. Stir until cold, add garnish, serve.
The Negroni is the liquid equivalent of adulting. It has a specific set of requirements, a somewhat bitter taste that you will eventually learn to enjoy, and it benefits from the judicious application of ice.
The Negroni is a classic cocktail in every sense of the word. It has a hundred-year-old lineage, a famous (and famously contested) origin story involving an Italian (or possibly French) count, an expansive family tree of similar drinks with cool names like Charlie Pie and Tunnel, and it is very easy to pour.
When you drink it, there is an air of adult seriousness. It’s got the bitter sting of writing check after check for streaming services that you only accessed once or twice last month, coupled with the smooth Vermouth of doing something that counts as accomplishment these days (of course you’re not actually writing checks… work with me here). You feel like you’ve finished paying your bills on time, correctly registered your vehicle, or purchased an actual set of silverware instead of using the one that was handed down to you when you graduated from college.
The Negroni is your participation trophy for being an adult. It’s not nearly as sweet as placing first, or even third, but dammit you must have achieved something, so take your bright red trophy and go show your neighbor. It’s easy to make, easy to get, but only those who actually participate will have one, and you want it. That’s the Negroni’s special niche.
You’re not traveling, so get that experience at home.
Pay your bills, check your bank account, or at least lay out some of those junk mail credit card applications on your table. Find something that gives you a sense of adult accomplishment like your zippered agenda book, a coffee mug from that conference you attended last year, or that battery tester you used when you checked all the smoke alarms. Other decorations are okay, but they should be purposeful and not frivolous. News on tv, subdued lighting, and all three utensils wrapped in a cloth napkin if you’re going to be eating something. Serious side note here, the Negroni is a before-dinner drink. Its bitter taste and ingredients are designed to stimulate your appetite and aid in digestion.
The stories surrounding the invention of the Negroni are interesting, to say the least. Most involve a man named Count Camillo Negroni who, legend says, was an Italian count who spent time in the American old west. Upon returning to his native Italy, he ordered a drink called an Americano which has the same recipe using soda instead of Gin. The count was a known tough guy and asked for Gin instead of seltzer, thus inventing the drink.
It’s a cool story, and reminiscent of the story of the Hemmingway Daiquiri, so of course there are several versions. Some claim that it was a different Count also named Negroni, who hailed from France but first poured the cocktail at an officer’s club in Africa. Others say that the legends are an amalgamation of the two men.
One ingredient from France, one from Italy, and a strong base of botanical truth… sounds about right. At best, it’s a story diluted by time, possibly mismanaged, and certainly with some kernel of historical reality however obfuscated by time much like your memory and various parts of your body as you reach the age needed to truly appreciate this drink. Also, you’re going to find yourself regularly using words like obfuscated if you make this your standard drink. Consider it a side effect.
Difford’s guide provides some great information about both sides of the story if you’re interested.
It’s adult decision time
Because of its simple and easily accessible formula, there are many drinks that are similar to the Negroni. The question becomes when does a drink stop being a Negroni and become something else? Or when did one of the previously poured drinks cross that line to become a Negroni?
Is it the ratio? The 1929 book called Cocktails de Paris by an author listed as Rip showed two drinks with the same ingredients in different proportions, the Camparinete (2:1:1) and the Charlie Pie (4:1:1). The Tunnel specifies using two different types of Vermouth, but the proportions come out to (3:5:2). By adding only Cointreau to the ingredients list, the same book lists drinks called Gloria and Lucien Gaudin. Cocktails de Paris never mentions the Negroni. Meanwhile, L’Heure de Cocktail, Recettes de Cocktails, by Alimbau and Milhorat (also 1929) lists the Campari Mixte with the same (1:1:1) recipe. It also does not mention a Negroni.
The recipe called a Negroni doesn’t start showing up until the late 1940s.
Is it the ingredients? If you use Bourbon, it’s called a Boulevardier. If you replace Gin with soda, it’s an Americano. There is also a Rye Negroni which I’ve seen called an Old Pal. With such versatile ingredients as Campari and Vermouth that bring bitter and sweet respectively, it is no wonder that switching out the base liquor makes a good drink for those who prefer a different base liquor to Gin.
Or you could go the other way. Replace the Campari with Suze, and you have a White Negroni, use Jaegermeister and you have a Count Mast Negroni.
Yikes, this thing is confusing. And I am definitely at my paragraph limit for speculation and my liver limit for testing. I am also not getting any younger so…Let’s get to the damn point. Hey, nobody ever said that adulting was going to be easy.
Let’s have that drink.
For my palette, I like the standard 1:1:1 with 1 1/2 oz. of each ingredient for a nice hearty drink. Both the International Bartender’s Association (IBA) and Liquor.com suggest this ratio with slightly different amounts. Use plenty of big ice cubes and mix it until everything is cold. Adjusting the Campari up or down about 1/4 oz. makes it more or less bitter. If you like Gin, adjusting both of the other ingredients down brings out the botanicals. Adjust too far and you might be making something that was once called something else, but you have permission to ignore that in favor of sanity.
Of course, these are one man’s opinions and sanctioned only by me and those who drink at my home bar. Like adulthood, you can enjoy the Negroni with as little or as much speculation, history, and bitterness as you like. When you’re ready for a good, serious drink pour the three ingredients and stir. Cheers.
Negroni Cocktail - Negroni Story
James Bond drank a Negroni when he wasn't in the mood for a Martini, and when Orson Welles tried his first one in 1947…
The Drink You Should Be Ordering
Want to impress your date? Order a Negroni. Want to impress your boss? Order a Negroni. Want to impress the bartender…
INGREDIENTS 30 ml Gin 30 ml Bitter Campari 30 ml Sweet Red Vermouth METHOD Pour all ingredients directly into chilled…
Alimbau and Milhorat, L’heure du Cocktail Recettes de Cocktails, 1929, Barmen, Paris
Rip, Cocktails de Paris, 1929, Demangels, Paris