Spring Ritual: Ode to the Negroni

The Negroni, along with the baseball season, is one of the most welcome rites of Spring. Its devotees include Gabrielle Hamilton, Orson Welles, and, of course, Count Negroni, for whom the drink is named. According to legend the count wanted a stronger version of an Americano and asked a bartender in Florence to substitute gin for club soda. The result is downright historical. Never has so much been owed by so many to so few. Kingsley Amis, our best writer on drink, declares simply: ‘This is a really fine invention.’

The Negroni, a classic aperitivo, is Campari, vermouth, gin, an orange, ice. Simple. Yet it requires precision. Plymouth is our stalwart gin, but we don’t fuss over that. Equal parts sweet vermouth and Campari. It must be stirred to an icy extreme. Serve it up or on the rocks. As in all things sartorial, the secret lies in the proportions. You may add more gin to taste–but be gentle with the Campari. Like marmalade, Campari looks good but tends towards bitterness–add too much and the whole enterprise collapses.

When working in combination, the Negroni an example of balance at its finest, the perfect drink for the warming season.

1 part gin
1 part sweet vermouth
1 part Campari

Combine in a shaker with ice and stir until deeply cold. Serve up or over one large cube of ice with a slice of orange.

David Coggins

Comments on “Spring Ritual: Ode to the Negroni

    The Soulist on May 2, 2011 8:04 AM:

    Great to have our Italian favorite drink on the best blog around! I just would like to add a couple of details…your Negroni recipe is correct but we need to say that in Italy the sweet vermouth is ALWAYS Martini Rosso (Red). There many different recipes (Negrosky with vodka instead of gin, Sbagliato from Bar Basso in Milan with brut spumante instead of gin, Bencini with Martini Bianco white instead of gin, etc) and way of making it but I must say, following my father taste, I always have it like this:
    1/4 Martini Rosso
    1/4 Campari
    2/4 Gordon’s Gin
    Thanks for your post on one of our best cocktail and..enjoy Italy!

    Ramalhoni on May 2, 2011 8:58 AM:

    Looks very cool and refreshing!
    When I’m in Italy I’am particularly partial to Campari Soda’s.. I can’t get enough of them…

    sam on May 2, 2011 9:20 AM:

    the best

    Tumbry on May 2, 2011 11:03 AM:

    Cole’s in downtown LA may well serve the finest negroni west of the Mississippi. I greatly appreciate the large, singular rock of ice it’s poured over &the blow torch toasted orange twist that adornes this delishes refreshment.

    jbjones on May 2, 2011 11:30 AM:

    The Soulist’s post reminds me of how difficult it was, on two separate occasions, to order a proper martini while traveling through Spain. One particular bartender quickly took my order and returned confidently with a Martini-brand vermouth, served up. This was followed by some discussion, then a mild disagreement (Spaniards are intensely territorial about their correctness). Quietly, his manager recognized me as American and walked the bartender through the process of mixing an actual martini cocktail, returning to me a big ol glass of ice cold vodka. It was better than that, actually. It was as balanced and lovely as they get in the USA or anywhere else, and bygones were immediately bygones.

    Jessica Define on May 2, 2011 1:27 PM:

    Always looking for new drinks to put gin in, I can’t wait to try this.

    MJP on May 2, 2011 2:02 PM:

    Excellent….my favorite summer drink, along with Pernod.

    pm on May 2, 2011 2:17 PM:

    Is that an olive? Man, that would totally bum me out if I got an olive in my Negroni. A big fat orange *twist* brings everything together so nicely.

    Unashamedly Crap on May 2, 2011 2:47 PM:

    Try an amaro Ramazotti con agua minerale gazzata.

    Baron Codswallop on May 2, 2011 2:50 PM:

    For a country that is notoriously and clearly politically correct about alcohol, it is rather wonderful to see that you care so much….


    Ms.Ghong on May 2, 2011 2:56 PM:

    I heart the Negroni I heart campari in general. Michael you should try it with a lil bit of Krogstad Aquvit, its a wonderful spirit/schnapps? of scandinaven origins, butt don’t quote me on it I’m just gong by memory. Krogstad is made here in Portland Oregon and I swear its a freaking awesome addition to the Negroni
    Cheers, salante, skol, Nostrovia, Kampai, Narok, salud and Ta
    Ms. Ghong

    david wright on May 2, 2011 4:00 PM:

    see also The First Pimms’ of the summer

    Peter Thurston on May 2, 2011 4:25 PM:

    Switch out the gin for a decent bourbon and you’ve got yourself a Boulevardier. By far my favorite cocktail, year-round, though it certainly leans toward an autumnal vibe. Just had the finest Boulevardier of my life at the Westin St Francis in San Francisco this past weekend. Definitely recommend this “twist” on the classic Negroni for my bourbon-loving compadres.

    Final point – for proportions, I tend to lean toward a 1.5 parts bourbon, 1 part each of Campari and red vermouth.

    Ty on May 3, 2011 2:06 AM:

    So you are in Italy. If Bologna is one of your destination, let me know it will be a pleasure to introduce you to the best monuments of the town and talk to you about my new venture, which, looking at what are your centers of interest, I am sure you will appreciate.

    Enjoy Italy

    fran on May 3, 2011 3:09 AM:

    thanks for this post. I am a big fan of Negroni and I am making it a personal mission to try one (ehm … several) in every country I visit. Never seen one served with an olive though … interesting.

    Matt L on May 3, 2011 6:28 AM:

    Try substituting Cynar, for the Campari. Makes it a good ‘beginners’ Negroni if the bitterness is too much.

    Psikorsky on May 3, 2011 6:52 AM:

    @The Soulist It’s not strictly true that they always use Martini Rosso in Italy. I’ve found many bars in Florence, Venice and Milan that also use Punt e Mes as their red vermouth.

    John M on May 3, 2011 4:17 PM:

    I agree that the olive seems a little out of place, would much rather see a nice twist of orange instead. Thanks to this blog for publicizing a classic drink that is often forgotten or overlooked in many bars. I have had to tell bartenders how to make them. If I have a bottle of Pellegrino handy, I think a tiny splash of soda to the drink is a refreshing touch. For gin I usually use Bombay Saphire, have been meaning to try it with Hendrick’s. I have tinkered with the proportions but still prefer the 1/3 each classic mix, too much gin and it gets strong and too dry.

    DC on May 3, 2011 4:42 PM:

    The orange is in the glass. The olive, one suspects, is being served separately. Nothing untoward is going on.

    Jay Brooks on May 3, 2011 8:16 PM:

    A Negroni is my absolute favourite drink.

    I had an interesting variation to the recipe above while visiting Venice recently:

    1 part gin
    1 part Punt e Mes
    1 part Cynar (or Aperol for something a little lighter & sweeter).

    Louis B. on May 5, 2011 9:01 AM:

    Why is Sir Kingsley Amis “our” best writer on drink?
    I thought you lot were American?
    I’d have thought Hemingway or Faulkner would have taken the crown.
    Or do you mean “our” as in “according to us”?
    It must be said that it is far easier to get a quality tipple in a major US city than it is here in the UK. Sir Kingsley would be none too pleased.

    David Coggins on May 5, 2011 10:32 AM:

    By ‘we’ we meant the brotherhood of drinkers, a brotherhood that knows no national boundaries. Faulkner (‘between Scotch and nothing I’ll take Scotch’) and Hemingway (‘always do sober what you said you’d do drunk’) are favorites but neither had a column devoted to drink, as Kingsley did. And neither wrote about it in such a varied, devoted way.

    David M on May 5, 2011 9:20 PM:

    Hi there, another Negroni fan here… the original orange peel is a garnish and has not flavour input so placing an olive in place has same effect as orange but of course the purist will be slightly surprised to see the olive. Bombay saphire gin for me. Nice call though on this classic Italian cocktail. In light of this the Americano is worth a mention…

    Mr. Geezer on May 6, 2011 2:34 AM:

    An acquired taste. My wife and I did an Italian dinner party in early spring. Four course, three hour dinner. It was great. To start, I thought I’d serve Negroni’s to go with the Italian theme. None of the other four drinkers liked them. I wasn’t about to let them go to waste so I drank ’em all (mine included). Luckily I made them in small glasses–I was still able to cook dinner. Still have a lot of left-over Campari and vermouth.

    Ale on May 6, 2011 8:38 PM:

    Are you still in Venice? Ask for a ”spritz”, even better of negroni (it’s out of fashion)!

    Michael Williams on May 7, 2011 7:45 AM:

    We mostly drank the “Spritz” in Venice and they are delicious.

    Imperial Black on May 9, 2011 2:57 PM:

    You had me at Sir Kingsley Amis…. Is the “Spritz” a Venice thing? I’ve never run into it anywhere else.

    Madman Mundt on May 10, 2011 1:29 PM:

    If you love Negronis, I MUST recommend the Negroni “Sbagliato” — a variation on the Negroni available throughout Italy. I can knock back the drinks, but even after 2 or 3 that much gin gets me very loopy. The Sbagliato substitutes CHAMPAGNE or Prosecco for the gin, and makes it a much lighter, easier beverage. Especially if you’re at a lunch, and getting too tipsy too quick is not in order. Thanks for the recommendation!

    Louis on May 20, 2011 4:05 AM:

    Spritz is very popular in Milan. In fact, I’d say it’s the most common drink. Flat out. People fo for aperitvo and order Spritz after work. It’s Aperol and Prosecco. Sometimes a little lemonade maybe? At least I’ve had a sweeter version.

    Apologies for any mispellings.

    Imperial Black on May 24, 2011 10:38 AM:

    David- if speaking of writers and drink I think that Malcolm Lowry of “Under the Volcano” fame deserves more than a passing nod. While not a drinks columnist, his pages drip with spirits (as did his life). If anyone hasn’t read him you owe it to yourself to do so….

    …and yes, we have been drinking Negronis, too many.

Comments are closed.