Who doesn’t love a stiff drink after work or at the weekend when out with friends? For Australian men who would rather have a schooner of Carlton Draught, there can be a certain stigma surrounding cocktails: “they’re a girly drink”. No. They’re not. Cocktails by their very nature are meant to taste delicious while hiding the burn-in-the-back-of-your-throat taste of the alcohol, perfect (and dangerous) for getting you suitably tipsy.
An absolute classic cocktail for both men and women is the Negroni. Made from just three ingredients, this seductively red cocktail is made to be sipped and savoured, a perfect after-dinner tipple, or even before – by its very nature, the Negroni is an Apéritif, meaning it can be served before or after a meal – and besides, who’s to judge?
But where did it come from and how the hell do you make your own sh*t-hot one? Allow us to explain all.
Origin Of The Negroni
The exact origins of the Negroni cocktail are surprisingly unknown. It’s believed to have originated in Florence, Italy (or at least, the earliest account of it) in 1919 at Caffè Casoni. The cafe was eventually taken over by fashion label Roberto Cavalli, which turned it into a boutique store and moved the cafe (under its ownership) one door down.
The drink is said to have been born out of a request from Count Camillo Negroni, who asked then-bartender Fosco Scarselli to take an Americano cocktail (Campari, sweet vermouth and soda water) and make it stronger by substituting the soda for gin (what else?). Scarselli, using his bartender nouse, switched out the traditional lemon garnish for orange, mainly to help identify it as a different drink.
Safe to say, the Count loved what he drank and as a family business, founded the Negroni Distillerie in Treviso, Italy, where it produced ready-to-drink versions of the cocktail.
Since then the popularity of the Negroni has soared, to the point where virtually every bartender worth his salt will know how to make one. Negronis are so popular in fact, that they have an entire week dedicated to them.
Negroni Week launched in 2013 as a charitable cause and now receives support from tens of thousands of bars around the world. Supporting bars make their own variations of the classic cocktail available for customers, with a portion of the proceeds going to their chosen partner charity. It is usually held in June, but in the wake of the pandemic in 2020, will be held from September 14th – 20th.
No matter where in the world you order a Negroni, it will always consist of just three ingredients.
- Gin (Hendricks, Boodles or Tanqueray London Dry Gin are our preferred choices)
- Sweet vermouth (Antica Formula, Punt e Mes or Martini & Rossi are good starters)
- One fresh orange for garnishing
- Large ice cube tray or ice sphere mould
- Rocks glass – the more decorated, the more entitled you are
These three spirits are easy to source, so making your own at home will be a piece of cake.
Classic Negroni Recipe Measurements
The classic recipe for a Negroni calls for equal measurements of each ingredient:
- 30ml/1oz Gin
- 30ml/1oz Sweet Vermouth
- 30ml/1oz Campari
You can adjust the measurements of these ingredients if 30ml puts Tom Selleck levels of hair on your chest, going down to 20ml or 25ml, just as long as they’re all equal parts.
How To Make The Negroni
To make one in a traditional manner you will need a cocktail stirring spoon and a cocktail mixing glass or stainless steel container. You will also need lots of ice and orange to garnish.
- Pour the three ingredients into a cocktail mixing glass or stainless steel container
- Add lots of ice. The Negroni is a drink best served cold.
- Stir with stirring spoon until chilled – some bartenders will argue there is a ‘perfect’ number of stirs. 15-20 should be plenty.
- Strain into a rocks glass over large ice cubes or an ice sphere.
- Take a knife or peeler and slice off a thin piece of orange rind, with as little of the white pith as possible.
- Rub the orange peel around the edge of the rocks glass, twist and drop into Negroni.
- Sip and enjoy.
Hollywood actor Stanley Tucci has previously shown the world his way of making a Negroni, which involves shaking, not stirring. While he received some support for this, the majority of the cocktail world was left quite literally shaken in disbelief. If you want to drink a traditional Negroni, steer well clear of shaking as it will dilute the Negroni cocktail too much.
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Expert Twist On The Negroni
With the Negroni following such a strict recipe for many years, you may think to change the way it’s made, both the ingredients used would be nigh-on impossible. Wrong. Hayley Dixon, Tequila Specialist at Proximo has given us a slight variation on the traditional recipe, that has our tastebuds singing.
“For the Negroni twist I thought I would take the year 1919 and keep rolling with it. The Negroni paved the way for many cocktails including the ‘Left Hand’ made with Bourbon and the ‘Right Hand’ made with Rum in place of the gin and with the addition of Chocolate Bitters that was created in 2007 at Milk & Honey in New York.”
“For this twist, I have taken Angostura 1919 Rum and made it the hero and introduced Amaro Di Angostura in replacement of bitters to help bring all the ingredients together.”
- If you have some large ice cube moulds make sure you get them in the freezer in advance, large ice is best for this one
- Get your Coupe Glass or Nick & Nora Glass and put it in the freezer. This cocktail will be served up with no ice so it is best to have your glassware as cold as possible
- Grab your Mixing Glass, Barspoon, Strainer and Jigger or another measuring device
- Measure all your ingredients into a Mixing Glass, a large glass or into one half of a cocktail tin
- Cut your lemon twist, ensuring you remove as much pith as possible from the zest
- Add ice to your mixing glass and stir your cocktail down for approximately 45 seconds. Keep tasting as you go. The idea is to get your drink as cold as possible and to start introducing dilution. If you feel the cocktail still tastes a little ‘boozy’ keep on stirring
- Once your cocktail is nice and cold, get your glass out of the freezer and strain your cocktail into the glass straight away
- Garnish with your lemon twist by expressing the lemon oil from the peel over the top of the drink and then dropping the twist in
How To Drink A Negroni
Because of its ingredients, the Negroni is very much on the bitter side of the tasting palette. It won’t be to everyone’s taste, at least on the first try. If you shiver with disgust on your first sip, don’t be put off. As with wines, there are plenty of taste variations to try, so there could well be a Negroni recipe that you like. You just need to try one a few more times to really understand it as a drink and to make a definitive decision whether it’s for you or not.
Experimenting with different gins and sweet vermouth combinations will have big effects on the taste. It can get expensive, but the investment to find the perfect Negroni for you will be worth it. In general, you’ll want to keep the Campari as a constant ingredient, although you can switch it out for Aperol or something like Poor Toms Imbroglio.
You can play around with the garnish too. If you’re using an orange peel, trying holding a match underneath it (the pith side) before twisting and dropping into the Negroni. The added heat will release even more of the flavourful oils. Alternatively, you can use a slide of orange instead, as it was the garnish used in the very first recorded Negroni.
Once you have found the recipe that works for you, the Negroni is best drunk while wearing your best French Riveria outfit: white chinos, a blue blazer – unstructured, of course – boat shoes and a Fedora. If you need some style inspiration, just take one look at Alexander Kraft.
What's in a negroni?
Gin. Vermouth and Campari.
What does negroni mean?
The drink was named after its inventor, possibly Count Camillo Negroni (1868-1934), Italian gambler and bon vivant who is said to have invented the cocktail in Florence in 1919.