Negroni, Cocktail

Of all the gin-chatter I manage to monitor, and all the various cocktail recommendations there are floating around amongst it , the Negroni is by far the most popular among gin aficionados.

The Negroni is purported to have been invented in 1909, in Froence, Italy, when Count Camillo Negroni asked that his favoured cocktail, the Americano, have the soda water substituted for gin.

One of the earliest recorded reports of the Negroni came from Orson Welles in 1947, when working in Rome. He described the drink in a letter to the Coshocton Tribune: “The bitters are excellent for your liver, the gin is bad for you. They balance each other”.

I have always shied away from the Negroni due to the inclusion of Campari; This isn’t a prejudice I hold against Campari, I just spend a lot of money on gin and tonic and I feel my wife would skin me if I started buying too many spurious bottles of random booze to mix with it. Anyway, I was shopping in Tesco at the weekend and I noticed that there is a limited edition bottle design and I cracked.

Trying Campari on its own was a mistake. It was bitter, unpleasant and nasty. I needed chocolate to wash it down with. Don’t go there.



I started off with the traditional Negroni mix…

  • one part gin
  • one part sweet vermouth
  • one part bitters (traditionally Campari)

Traditionally served as a pre-dinner aperitif, the Negroni certainly packs a mean punch that is guaranteed to make dinner anecdotes slightly more slurred and risqué than normal.

I initially tried this with Sipsmith gin. I only had Cinzano Bianco in the cupboard, which isn’t as sweet as the traditional Rosso, but is still considered a sweet vermouth, so I mixed and sampled. This delivered a very bitter and herbaceous drink with a deceptive sweetness that never really successfully manages to counter the bitterness. All-in-all a bit of an unpleasant disappointment.

This is where I started experimenting.

Reducing the quantity of Vermouth and Campari made the drink less bitter and less Vermouthy (it is a pretty dominating flavour). The mix was as follows…

  • 50ml gin
  • 35 ml Campari
  • 35 ml Sweet vermouth

This lead to a less intense drink and allowed more of the gin flavours to shine through. It was still a little bitter for my tastes, but it was bearable.

Next up, I tried adding a little St Germain elderflower liqueur and a squeeze of lime…

  • 50ml gin
  • 35 ml Campari
  • 35 ml Sweet vermouth
  • 10ml St Germain
  • Wedge of lime, partially squeezed into the glass.

The St Germain rounded-out some of the flavours and certainly took a little more edge from the bitterness of the Campari. The lime prevented the Elderflower Liqueur from being too cloying. This was a lot more drinkable, but still lacked something for me.

Next up, I tried my home-made sloe gin

  • 50ml Sloe gin
  • 35 ml Campari
  • 35 ml Sweet vermouth

I thought the added sweetness of the sloe gin and the extra fruitiness and spices would compliment the Negroni quite well, and I wasn’t wrong; maybe the sloe gin added a layer of depth that the use of Cinzano Rosso would have bought in the first place. Maybe that already mellowed bitterness of the sloes told the Campari where to go. Either way, this struck just the right balance between bitter and sweet (possibly a little too sweet) for me and made for a very pleasing drink with great depth of flavour and a mule-like kick.

Next up was Sipsmith sloe gin. I managed to get hold of a bottle of this back in October last year (and have been meaning to do a write-up comparing this against my own sloe gin efforts, but life seems to have conspired against that.

The mix was the same as the last, just substituting Sipsmith sloe gin with my own home-made hooch. The results were rather special; the Sipsmith sloe gin is far less sweet than my own effort, and when drank neat is rather tart by comparison. However, this reduced level of sweetness really did work very well in the Negroni; gone was the hint of too much sweetness that the home-made stuff bought to the table, and flavours of cherry/almond really played very well into the hands of the vermouth and Campari. Cracking stuff.

By this time, I was a little worse for wear, having sipped my way through no less that five pretty strong aperitifs (I had dinner after the second and carried-on experimenting afterwards).

@YetAnotherGin mentioned on Twitter that he found a Negroni he bottled six months previously; when quizzed he mentioned that they do age well (, so I may have to mix up a small bottle and store it away for a rainy winter’s day, to see how it gets on.


The Negroni is an acquired taste, but with a little modification, it can be made to fit a wide range of palates. The standard mix is not to my tastes though.

Update: 14/08/2011

What a difference a vermouth makes. Trying the 1:1:1 ratio with Martini Rosso made a much better drink with the sweetness balancing nicely with the bitterness of the Campari. Using Lillet Blanc also made for a more pleasing drink.

Also, a dash of cardamom bitters made this into a warmer, more sensational cocktail. I have started drinking these every now and then for pleasure.

Update: 10/09/2011

I bought a bottle of Aperol the other week; I tried a negroni with Aperol instead of Campari and while it was good, it lacked the bite that a traditional negroni has. After a little experimentation, I found a brilliant combination.

  • 50ml Gin (In this case Finsbury Gin)
  • 50ml Lillet Blanc
  • 25ml Campari
  • 25ml Aperol
  • 1 dash Cardamom bitters

I held back on the fruit, partly because I didn’t have an orange in the house and partly because Aperol is quite orangy.

The result is a clear, bright drink that has a pleasing, but not too powerful bite; fresh and slightly warming. Great stuff.




3 thoughts on “Negroni, Cocktail

  • July 10, 2011 at 2:16 pm

    My experience as well. I cannot stand this drink.

    It doesn’t help that I cannot stand vermouth either!

    I’m considering substituting vermouth with red or white wine in the cocktails that require it, do you think this is a ridiculous idea?

    • July 10, 2011 at 5:49 pm

      Vermouth is generally added for its herbaceous nature and wine has none of this. However, since taste is all about personal preference, you should certainly experiment – I think a lot of cocktails have come about through experimentation and I would heartily recommend it.

      I would use a sweet wine in a negroni, as Campari is bitter as anything.

      I would also recommend doing a little research and trying some of the milder vermouths. Each is made to a unique recipe and some are comparatively mild in flavour.

  • May 21, 2014 at 6:48 pm

    jellydonut, maybe its been awhile since your last post and you love vermouth now or…maybe your vermouth is old or just flavored bad hooch to begin with. Try vermouths like Dolin or Vya or Cochii but get rid of the other stuff- just no good at all.


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