A few months ago, Stanley Tucci reentered our lives with a Negroni tutorial on Instagram. Unfortunately, he shook his Negroni instead of stirring - but he was also a highlight of The Devil Wears Prada, so all is forgiven. Before Stanley Tucci, however, there was Orson Welles. While filming in Rome in 1947, that actor, director, and late-in-life wine salesman claimed to have discovered a new drink called the Negroni. Several years later, Ernest Hemingway also mentioned the cocktail in Across the River and into the Trees, and just to round things out, Ian Fleming had James Bond order a Negroni in the 1960 story “Risico.”
The Negroni has been around for a while now. The most popular origin story claims it was invented at a bar in Florence in 1919 when a man by the name of Camillo Negroni asked for a modified Americano, and even if this isn’t 100% true, it still makes a lot of sense. Swap the seltzer in an Americano for an ounce of gin, and what you get is a Negroni - a cocktail so boozy, balanced, and elegant it deserves, at the very least, a small plaque in your kitchen.
According to tradition, a Negroni is made with equal parts gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth - but a little extra gin will keep your drink from feeling too syrupy. There’s also a whiskey variation called a Boulevardier, as well as my personal favorite, the smoky, silky Mezcal Negroni. This last drink still needs a good name, and if you think of one that sticks, I’ll Venmo you a dollar.
Those two Negroni variations are just the beginning. More than any other cocktail, the Negroni is an abstract concept that defies definition. Some variations even jettison two-thirds of the original ingredients - and, while that doesn’t really fly with most cocktails, here it feels enlightened and progressive. You can add juice, coffee, or sparkling wine and still somehow wind up with something you can call a Negroni.
Negroni Ground Rules
Ready to start your own Negroni experimentation? Then you should know that this drink follows your basic three-part cocktail formula. It has a sweet component in the form of sweet vermouth, a bitter element in Campari, and the base spirit gin. Start with two of these ingredients, and tweak the third. Instead of gin, for example, try rum. Or instead of your standard sweet vermouth, use something like Punt E Mes, Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, or maybe even a can of Fanta.
Here are a few more Negroni ground rules:
1. A Negroni must be simple. Three ingredients is ideal, although four is also permissible.
2. A Negroni must be served on the rocks in a rocks glass. Ice is a Negroni’s best friend, and a little extra dilution isn’t a bad thing.
3. A Negroni must be stirred. Despite Stanley Tucci’s insistence on shaking, this is a golden rule.
Or maybe you don’t feel like inventing your own Negroni. If you just want to sit around and drink something you know will be good, here are three fun variations you can make with relatively easy-to-find ingredients. One has caffeine, one’s significantly lighter than a typical Negroni, and another has a touch of grapefruit juice for some juicy summer fun.
Imagine if a classic Negroni went on vacation, hiked a few mountains, and watched a sunset on the beach while calmly reevaluating how bitter it used to be. After this moment of transformation, it would become a Rosé Negroni. This drink isn’t as heavy as a standard Negroni, but it still has a touch of Campari, and it’s just as strong as anything else you’ll drink today. Think of it as a summery Negroni that happens to be pink, and feel free to make one for someone who doesn’t typically like Negronis. This is a crowd-pleaser.
The secret to this Negroni variation is Suze, a French apéritif that tastes like a mouthful of dandelions. It’s bitter enough to make up for the lack of Campari, and it lends the drink a subtle neon yellow glow. Of course, you also need some gin for this drink, and Lillet helps round things out with a touch of sweetness. The resulting cocktail is a little less in-your-face than a classic Negroni, and also sort of looks like lemonade, so you might be able to bring one to a meeting.
Forty years from now, cars will be sassy like in Knight Rider, everyone will be using flip phones again, and - once people realize its potential - the Cold Brew Negroni will be the most popular brunch drink. Much like every other Negroni, a Cold Brew Negroni is a relatively simple cocktail that you can easily stir together while spacing out in your kitchen, but unlike a classic Negroni, this cocktail doesn’t have gin. Instead, there’s cold brew and rum - a combination that works just as well after dinner as it does at 11am on a Saturday.