Pre-prohibition cocktails and modern twists on classics

Variations – The Negroni

Variations - The Negroni

Negroni Week is here and its time to celebrate with a few variations of one of my all time favorite classic cocktails.

Stay tuned here all week as more variations are on the way.

The Negroni is one amazing drink. Something about that perfect combination of dry gin, the sweet vermouth and the bitter orange Campari. Whether you keep it classic with equal parts on the rocks, double the gin, serve it up or finger stir it a la Gaz Regan, the Negroni is always a great go to drink. It’s good in the winter, refreshing in the summer, a drink for all seasons. Its even super easy to teach your friends (or the less educated bartender) how to make. Really the only thing you could do wrong is to shake it, but even then it doesn’t taste half bad.


NegroniNegroni

1oz Gin

1oz Campari

1oz Sweet Vermouth

Orange Twist


The Negroni is also a perfect drink for playing around with variations. You have three very different ingredients bringing the main flavors to the drink: dry, sweet and bitter citrus. Swapping out anyone of those (or more than one) will give you a different taste that is sure to be delicious. This is a cocktail with so many options that you could never be bored.

Let’s start with gin. Most probably use a London dry gin to make their negroni’s. Try it with Old Tom, Plymouth or even Genever to mix up the flavor. A great line of gins from St. George Spirits also makes for some great Negroni variations with their Botanivore gin making for a great botanical heavy gin, not to mention their malty Dry Rye gin and unique Terrior gin.


Herban BotanistHerban Botanist

1oz Botanivore Gin

1oz Cynar

1oz Cocchi Americano

Bittermens Orange Cream Citrate

Orange Twist


The Great OutdoorsThe Great Outdoors

1oz Terroir Gin

1oz Salers

.75oz Dolin Blanc

.5oz Cointreau

Orange Twist


Maybe you leave gin all together and go for whiskey. Using sweeter bourbon makes a Boulevardier while spicier Rye a 1794. You could even use a peaty scotch to give a nice smoked flavor. On the subject of smokey one of my favorite variations is with Mezcal (check out Scorched Earth below). Tequila also works. You get the point, almost any other base spirit will make for a great variation.


Boulevardier

Boulevardier

1oz Bourbon

1oz Campari

1oz Sweet Vermouth

Orange Twist


What about the Vermouth? Try different types of vermouth. While I typically like my “standard” Negroni’s with something like Dolin Rouge, Punt e Mess (a bittered vermouth) makes a great one as well. Carpano Antica is very rich and heavy also making a nice variation (although it kind of stomps out the gin a bit due to it’s heavy flavor, so don’t waste your high end gin in this one). Vya, Cocchi Torino, etc. There is a great range of vermouths out now that will change the taste significantly. Or maybe you switch to white sweet vermouth to make a lighter Negroni. Try dry vermouth as well.


Lucien GaudinLucien Gaudin

1oz Gin

.5oz Campari

.5oz Cointreau

.5oz Dry Vermouth

Orange Twist


You could even leave the vermouth behind and try something in its place. Cocchi Americano, Lillet, Bonal, Sherry, Barolo Chinato, Port, Sparkling wine and other “wine” based ingredients can add quite the variety. Some even use Sparkling wine in place of gin.


Negroni SpagliatoNegroni Sbagliato

1oz Prosecco

1oz Campari

1oz Sweet Vermouth

Orange Twist


Little Red 2Little Red’s Mistake

1oz Prosecco

1oz Luxardo Bitter

1oz Cocchi Americano

Orange Twist


Another one of my favorite things to use in place of vermouth is Cynar, which has a sweetness but is also quite herbal/vegetal and has a nice bitter finish that works great with Campari.


Scorched Earth

Scorched Earth

1oz Mezcal

1oz Campari

1oz Cynar

Bitters (see recipe)

Orange Twist


Check out Side by Side – Bitter Orange Spirits to learn more about the differences between Campari, Gran Classico and Luxardo Bitter.

While to my Campari addicted tastes, nothing beats using my bitter orange friend, you can also do some nice variations with other bitter spirits. A popular one is Gran Classico, which is a bit sweeter, less bitter and has a more complex flavor that may appeal to those turned off by the bitter taste of Campari. Luxardo bitter is also another player, with a flavor profile intermediate between Campari and Gran Classico.


A Gentleman's FriendA Gentleman’s Friend

1oz Gin

1oz Gran Classico

1oz Cynar

Urban Moonshine Maple Bitters

Flamed Orange Twist


Aperol is an obvious choice for a lighter Negroni. It’s low alcohol, very light with just a hint of bitterness and a great orange and rhubarb laced taste. A recently revived orange flavored liqueur that most probably haven’t heard of is Calisaya, which is lighter, much sweeter and less bitter than Campari. Amaro Nonino is also a great substitute as well, with a taste similar to Gran Marnier but with a richer bittered finish.


Summer NegroniSummer Negroni

1oz Gin

1oz Aperol

1oz Dolin Blanc

Orange Bitters

Orange Twist


Leaving the orange behind and focusing on the bitter side, you could certainly use Cynar in place of Campari for a slightly lighter and less bitter version (even though Cynar is darker in color). Fernet-Branca can also come in handy. Really almost any Amaro would make for a good variation. Try Salers or Suze for a Gentian laced edition, paired with a white sweet vermouth or Cocchi Americano. Some even use Cocchi Americano as the “bitter” ingredient.

You can combine multiples of ingredients in pace of others to create some “looser” variations. One of my favorites is Eeyore’s Requiem, which reads like a bitter lovers wish list:


Eeyore's Requiem

Eeyore’s Requiem

1.5oz Campari

1oz Dolin Blanc

.5oz Gin

.25oz Cynar/.25oz Fernet

Orange Bitters/Twists


Then there is my really loosely interpreted version, The Bittersweet Garden, which works Green Chartreuse into the mix:


The Bittersweet Garden

The Bittersweet Garden

1.25oz Campari

1oz Gin

.5oz Green Chartreuse

.5oz Dolin Blanc/.25oz Fernet

Maraschino/Orange twist


This quick tour just barely scratches the surface of the many options you could play with to make your own Negroni variation.


~Check back all week, more variations are on the way.~

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17 Responses to “Variations – The Negroni”

  1. SJA

    I’m waiting for a spritz version in time for the summer. Nothing like a good Sbagliato. Come to think of it there’s nothing like a good Negroni.

    Reply
  2. Trey

    Whenever I’m in need of a little cocktail inspiration, I don’t have to look any further than here. I wanted some twists on the Negroni and Google led me here. Great suggestions, as always.

    Reply

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