As red as the mercury in the thermometer, as bitter as the cold, and as sweet as a snow-day by the fire, the Negroni is the perfect winter cocktail. The deceptively simple formula creates a perfect harmony of warming wintry flavors, with piney aromatics from Juniper-forward gin and a bitter Campari backbone tempered by the spiced sweetness of vermouth. Sophisticated enough for a holiday soirée and forgiving enough to splash into your coffee cup without measuring, this three-ingredient aperitif is one of the simplest cocktails to make, and packs everything you need to make it through the short days and long nights ahead.
- Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass and stir
- Strain into a cocktail glass or over fresh ice in a double old fashioned glass
- Express orange oil over drink, then drop peel into glass
Like all classic cocktails, the true history of the Negroni is a source of contention amongst historians and bartenders, but both popular versions make for good fireside reading.
One story is that the cocktail was invented by Italian Count Camillo Negroni in Florence in 1919. The Count was a swashbuckling figure (who might not actually have been a count at all) who spent years traveling the American West wrangling cattle, gambling, and, we assume, drinking his fair share of American whiskey. When he returned to Italy, his taste for strong spirits clashed with the European preference for mild aperitifs, and he asked his local bartender to mix his favorite cocktail, the Americano, with gin instead of the usual soda water.
It’s a fun story, but the Negronis don’t have a Count Camillo Negroni on their family tree. They do, however, have General Pascal Olivier de Negroni de Cardi, a verifiable nobleman with an equally badass backstory. He joined the military at 18, and was decorated for his gallantry in the Franco-Prussian War, where he spent months as a prisoner of the enemy. Nobody needed a drink more than this guy, and he is said to have invented the Negroni at the officer’s club while serving in Dakar, Senegal, long before Count Camillo ever set sail.
There are holes in this story, too (Campari wasn’t invented until half-way through his service in Senegal), but regardless of which Count you support, the Negroni’s status as a classic is unassailable.
How to Hack Your Negroni
Winter is long, and nobody wants to be stuck drinking the same thing all season, but one of the things that has kept the Negroni in bartenders’ arsenals for more than a century is how easy it is to riff on. You can switch up your base spirit for a totally different cocktail–try bourbon for a Boulevardier or mezcal for a Rosita. Campari too bitter? Try subbing Aperol instead. And there are enough sweet vermouths on the market that it’ll be summer before you’ve finished trying them all.
If you feel like getting fancy, you can infuse your Negroni with other flavors. Try soaking coffee or cocoa nibs in your Campari overnight for a perfect winter sip, maybe some rosemary in your gin, or toss a bag of your favorite tea in your cocktail while you stir. You can bottle up your concoction and give it as a gift, or become the life of the party when you show up with Negronis instead of wine. But if there’s one trick you should absolutely try to elevate any Negroni from good to great, it’s this: add a pinch of salt.
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