From the archives…
The Negroni might be my favorite cocktail (although it may be a close tie with the equally sublime Daiquiri) and over the years, I have experimented with many different variations. By variation I mean:
- replacing the base alcohol (gin) with another one (rum, scotch, mezcal, tequila, or whiskey of course (*));
- replacing Campari with another amaro with a similar flavor profile (Aperol, Gran Classico bitter (**) (***));
- adding other ingredients in small touches (coffee liqueur, Fernet, etc, salt);
- or experimenting with aperitif wines including various sweet vermouths (Dolin, Vya, Cocchi vermouth di Torino, etc), less sweet sweet vermouths (Punt e Mes), quinquinas (Bonal, Byrrh), and aromatized wines (Cocchi Barolo Chinato).
*With Bourbon the Negroni becomes a Boulevardier (with rye and dry vermouth, an Old Pal). These magnificent drinks deserve a dedicated discussion, so I won’t go into them here.
**I’ve included a few variations with Suze which is stretching the envelope, because Suze doesn’t have the pronounced orange flavor that Campari has. The most famous Negroni variation with Suze is of course the White Negroni, which I will discuss separately. There is a slew of variations that swap out the Campari for Cynar (Cin-Cyn) or another amari that doesn’t have much or any orange flavor, and again I think these are better addressed in another post.
And of course, I shall note that Negroni Week is currently in full swing, which means that many bars across the world are celebrating this classic drink.
This is not meant to be a comprehensive list; this is simply a summary of things that I have tried over the years.
October 26, 2012
I tried a lovely Negroni variation last night, the Violet Hour’s Autumn Negroni.
With an ingredient list including Campari, Cynar AND Fernet Branca, I was a little worried. And to top things off, it uses orange AND Peychaud’s bitters. It could have been a mess. Needless to say, my husband who is already afraid of Campari refused to take a sip.
It was immediately recognizable as a Negroni, with the Fernet and Cynar imparting a caramelized finish. Really great and perfect for fall (I’ve been doing all sorts of caramelized things this week, which was not intentional. In addition to this excellent cocktail, I made caramelized carrot soup and tarte Tatin…).
October 29, 2012
On a Negroni kick… so Friday I made a Nolita Cocktail, a Negroni variation invented by Christian Siglin from Craft & Commerce. It’s a typical Negroni where half of the sweet vermouth (recipe calls for Carpano Antica, I used Vya) is replaced with a coffee liquor (recipe calls for Cafe Lolita, I used Kahlua), and with a lemon twist. The recipe called for “bitters” with no further details; I thought that the cardamom notes of the Regan’s orange bitters would pair well, so I used that.
Surprisingly tasty. A slightly tamer/deeper flavored Negroni. The coffee was subtle and went very well with the Vya vermouth.
Then on Saturday we decided to have a drink at Craft & Commerce. So I got a Nolita from its creator himself. He used Beefeater too. For the bitters, he used a generous dash of the Bittermens mole bitters which gave the drink a slight kick. It was really great. Finally a use for that bottle of Kahlua that has been gathering dust…
October 31, 2012
Another Negroni variation by a local bartender (Jason O’Bryan), the Negroni Primavera.
Equal parts gin, Aperol and Punt e Mes, with an orange zest.
Plenty of bitter orange flavor thanks to the Aperol + Punt e Mes combo. It feels a little less intense than a regular Negroni, but the Punt e Mes shines through especially in the finish. There aren’t enough drinks using Punt e Mes so it was nice to find this one!
January 24, 2013
An equal part Negroni last night with Junipero gin, Dolin sweet vermouth, Campari; dash each Regan’s and Angostura orange bitters, orange twist.
I like Dolin in Negronis. It feels fairly dry and lighter than other vermouths maybe, but it has complexity from the spices and herbs, and you can taste that in the final drink. It does not overwhelm the drink the way Carpano Antica does. Also the vanilla notes in the Antica don’t necessarily make sense in a Negroni.
I also like how Vya and its intense ripe fruit notes work in that cocktail.
But I know there are plenty of other options out there… For example Martini and Rossi that I haven’t had in ages (and never in a Negroni), Cinzano, Cocchi di Torino, etc. At home I rotate between brands of sweet vermouth and pick based on my mood. I love variety so I don’t often repeat the same combo of ingredients anyway.
February 7, 2013
[H]ere is the Negroni battle, Tempus Fugit’s Gran Classico Bitter (originally from Turin but made in Switzerland) vs. Campari.
Equal parts (mini) Negroni with an orange coin
On its own, Gran Classico is not as intense as the Campari. Campari has a much brighter orange flavor (similar a little bit to Cointreau vs. PF dry curacao). And the color is the other obvious difference.
The Gran Classico Negroni was more herbal and had a syrup-like quality, almost like honey, that is not there in the Campari version. The orange flavor in the Gran Classico Negroni was more subtle and overall it was a toned-down Negroni with a slightly sweet finish. I thought my husband may like it (he abhors Campari) and very bravely he had a sip, but it was still too bitter for him.
In comparison, the Campari Negroni starts extremely bright and continues with an intense orange flavor, some sweetness, and a memorable bitter finish that makes you long for another sip.
Campari is the clear winner for me in the Negroni. But I am sure that I will find other uses for the Gran Classico. It may be time to revisit the Boulevardier, Old Pal, Left Hand, Right Hand, and so on. Or maybe as an Aperol alternative?
April 2, 2013
There is a bunch of interesting Negroni variations in this article by Bon Appetit (“There’s No Wrong Way to Screw Up a Negroni“), including a few that are featured on the menu at Hinoki and the Bird and were mentioned in the discussion in the Boulevardier thread.
June 6, 2013
Last night’s Negroni variation was the Banks of Torino found via Kindred Cocktails. Banks 5 rum as the base, which makes it a relative of Michael McIlroy’s Right Hand (aged rum, sweet vermouth, Campari, mole bitters).
Banks of Torino
by Joshua Perez, Booker & Dax, NYC
1 1/2 oz Blended rum, Banks 5 Island
3/4 oz Aromatized wine, Cocchi Vermouth di Torino
3/4 oz Campari
2 ds Bitters, Angostura
1 twst Orange peel
Build over one large rock, stir and garnish with an orange peel.
I liked how this combination highlighted the aroma of the rum. The vermouth di Torino was great in this drink, just the right fit. This was a very harmonious tropical Negroni. I think that I prefer it to the Right Hand.
October 11, 2013
The other day I realized with horror that I had never tried Joaquin Simo’s Kingston Negroni. I had tried a cocktail combining Campari with Smith & Cross in Benjamin Schwartz’s Professional, as well as countless Negroni variations, but not this one for some reason. I decided to remedy the situation immediately.
Not as crisp or bitter as a regular Negroni (this was equal parts but I’ve seen recipes for the Kingston Negroni cutting down the vermouth to 3/4 which makes sense). But it’s wonderfully flavorful with the rich aroma of the S&C balancing out the Campari.
March 18, 2014
These past few weeks the Varnish in LA has been celebrating its five year anniversary with a month-long celebration where past bartenders come to serve their creations. I haven’t been able to attend but I am there in spirit…
Last night Chris Bostik served the Nice Legs cocktail, another delightful Negroni variation. This one is the red version of the White Negroni. Suze for the bitter element, and barolo chinato for the aromatized wine (it’s a quinquina made from Barolo wine).
Nice Legs: 1.5 oz Beefeater gin, 0.75 oz suze, 0.75 Cocchi barolo chinato, rock(s), orange peel.
March 14, 2014
The Ortensia with equal parts Highland Park 12, Punt e Mes, Aperol, and a (bitter) orange twist. A Negroni with scotch… and it was really good. Because Aperol is not as bitter as Campari, I think it’s important to use Punt e Mes rather than any sweet vermouth in this drink.
In other news, Negroni week is only a few weeks away with a lot of bars participating this year.
October 24, 2014
I usually don’t like Gran Classico Bitter in Negronis (very sweet, not bitter enough), but it worked in this one, probably because of the bitterness of the Bonal. It’s also my first Negroni with mezcal and I am a fan.
Mezcal Negroni: Vida mezcal, Gran Classico Bitter, Bonal gentiane-quina.
February 10, 2015
A Negroni made in San Diego (and a riff on Gaz Regan’s Rosita) – the Jalisco Stroll by Eric Giger of Noble Experiment, with 7 Leguas tequila blanco, Campari, Dolin dry vermouth, salt solution.
I forgot to try it without the salt. With the salt it’s great. the Campari is toned down enough to fully enjoy the tequila. Some chocolate in the finish.
February 18, 2015
A white Negroni variation last night, also found through Gaz Regan’s 101 Best New Cocktails app.
Tthe Citrine (Jake Sutton) with Sipsmith London dry gin, Suze, Dolin/Vya sweet vermouth (Cocchi vermouth di Torino), stir/strain/up (rock), lemon twist.
I love the Sipsmith gin (very crisp/bright flavors), and the VdT paired really well with the Suze. Very happy.
March 2, 2015
Another tequila-based Negroni variation, the Negrita (Giuseppe Gallo via Gaz Regan), with tequila Ocho plata (7 Leguas tequila blanco), Campari, Barolo Chinato. The dried fruit/raisins and general depth in the Barolo Chinato are a nice contrast to the fresh and crisp tequila.
May 16, 2015
Punt e Mes works great [in Negronis]. The little extra spike of bitterness can be a good thing with an assertive gin. My neighborhood bar/restaurant uses it by default in Negronis (with Tanqueray) and made me a convert.
I also like Dolin red (herbal, dry, and not as not ” in your face” as other red vermouths) and Cocchi vermouth di Torino (deeper, richer flavor with chocolate undertones). The only vermouth I stay away from is Carpano Antica Formula. Too sweet for Negronis.
May 23, 2015
I like Beefeater, Tanqueray or Junipero for more juniper, and St. George dry rye gin for a more unusual savory take on the Negroni.
June 2, 2015
I made myself a Nolita last night with Beefeater gin, Campari, St. George Nola coffee liqueur, Cocchi vermouth di Torino, Regan’s orange bitters. Coffee, chocolate, and orange. I don’t like the St. George coffee liqueur as much as the House Spirits one, but it worked great in this cocktail.
November 12, 2015
This Negroni variation with Byrrh as the base still had a lot of punch. At first it’s Suze’s woody bitterness that comes through. After a few sips though, it becomes very harmonious and, unexpectedly, coffee notes start to emerge.
Violet Negroni (Mathieu Sabbagh via Diffords) with Byrrh, Tanqueray London dry gin, Suze.
September 30, 2016
The Quill is a Negroni variation with a dash of absinthe. 33 Portland dry gin, Campari, Cocchi vermouth di Torino, St. George absinthe.
I put in a couple of sprays of absinthe but will have a heavier hand next time, as you could barely detect it.