If there are two things Italians love, it’s food and drink. Nothing compares to the Mediterranean’s delicious flavor combined with the craft and great tastes that go into Italian cuisine.
While we wish we could tell you how to make the perfect spaghetti, we don’t know either. But what we do know is a lot about Italian aperitivos and cocktails. And amongst the Italian cocktails, none stands quite as tall as the Negroni cocktail.
The Negroni is a cocktail that is mostly ordered by experienced bartenders and is largely ignored by casual drinkers. But Negronis are highly approachable and incredibly delicious, which is why they have become so popular in the United States.
But what is a Negroni? If you aren’t familiar with this bright red cocktail, you likely have a lot of questions — and we have a lot of answers.
Here is everything you’re ever going to want to know about the Negroni.
What Is a Negroni?
A Negroni is a brilliantly popular Italian cocktail usually enjoyed as a before-dinner drink, or aperitivo. A Negroni is traditionally made with equal parts gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth, mixed in an old fashioned glass and served with ice and an orange peel garnish.
Many people say that Negroni has flavors of cherry, orange, herbs, citrus, and even wine-like notes. Negronis are also known for their bitter flavor profile, which can make them an acquired taste.
In case you didn’t already notice, every ingredient of the Negroni is alcoholic to some extent, even the bitters if you choose to add a dash. This makes the Negroni a very strong drink, so make sure you sip it slowly.
Negroni’s are very popular before-dinner drinks, sipped as aperitifs to spark your appetite before a meal. They’re even becoming more common in the United States, where reception of many Italian bitter aperitifs has been slow, until recently.
How Was the Negroni Invented?
The Negroni was first mixed in 1919 in Florence, Italy at Cafe Casoni. Pascal Olivier Count de Negroni was a French general and cafe regular who requested the bartender strengthen his usual Americano cocktail. An Americano is a cocktail made with equal parts Campari liqueur and Rosso — also known as red vermouth — topped off with a splash of soda water.
The bartender at Cafe Casoni, the famous Fosco Scarselli, strengthened the Americano by replacing the soda water with gin. He also garnished it with an orange slice rather than the traditional lemon to show it was a different drink. The new cocktail was immediately beloved. Soon, it spread in popularity throughout Italy and the world.
A Negroni today is made with one ounce Campari, sweet vermouth, and gin. You usually pour one ounce of each, then stir and garnish with an orange peel.
What Is Campari?
Campari is a Negroni’s special ingredient, so it just feels right to dive a little deeper into this flavorful liqueur. Campari is an aperitivo that Gaspare Campari originally invented in the 1860s in Milan, Italy. His namesake would later go on to become one of the most popular aperitivos in the world.
The full Campari recipe is top-secret. Besides the obvious ingredients of alcohol and water, all we know is that the other ingredients are a carefully crafted blend of bitter herbs, aromatic plants, and fruit. The all-important details remain a mystery.
Campari has often been described as an acquired taste due to its bitter flavor notes. As you get used to it, nothing (not even a tequila sunrise) beats that bitter orange flavor you get from a delicious bottle of Campari.
How Do You Make a Classic Negroni?
If you want to try this classic cocktail yourself, you can easily make it at home, assuming you already have the ingredients available on your bar shelf. If not, you’ll want to get some vermouth, gin, and Campari to add to your home bar.
Then you can make this delicious classic Negroni in a New York minute:
- One Ounce of Gin
- One Ounce of Campari
- One Ounce of Sweet Vermouth
In a mixing glass, combine gin, Campari, and vermouth over ice. Stir until condensation appears on the outside of your mixing glass. Pour into a rocks glass with an ice cube. Garnish with an orange twist if you wish, and enjoy.
Are There Any Replacements for Campari?
Campari is relatively easy to find at your local liquor stores. Still, not everyone has a bottle of Campari at the ready.
Unfortunately, there's no perfect replacement for Campari you can grab in a pinch, thanks to its hush-hush ingredients list. Using other aperitivos (like Aperol or an Amaro) can work but will alter the flavor of the drink, making for some fun and interesting experimentation.
That being said, many of our Haus apéritif offerings can serve as a substitute, rather than a replacement, bringing new flavor elements forward while also staying true to the apéritif motif.
Negroni Recipes With a Twist
The Negroni is a mind-bendingly simple drink, made with equal parts of only three ingredients — it doesn’t get much easier than that. But for such a minimalistic drink, there is plenty of complexity, and even more wiggle room for experimentation and substitutions to create entirely new and delicious combinations.
Here are a few of our favorite recipes with a Haus twist on the classic Negroni.
1. Spiced Cherry Negroni
This first twist on a Negroni is almost the same as the original recipe, but with one crucial swap for a tarter, fruitier flavor. The Spiced Cherry Negroni replaces the sweet vermouth with our Haus Spiced Cherry apéritif, giving a crisper, brighter, and tarter stone fruit punch.
This can make your Negroni much more approachable to drinkers who are still getting used to the strong flavor of Campari.
- One Ounce of Gin
- One Ounce of Haus Spiced Cherry Apéritif
- One Ounce of Campari
In a mixing glass, combine your gin, Haus Spiced Cherry, and Campari with ice. Stir until chilled. Strain into a rocks glass with a large ice cube and serve.
Simple, fast, and straightforward, the Spiced Cherry Negroni loses none of the directness or simplicity of its original. At the same time, it also highlights that bitter punch and gives a fruity jolt to your drink.
If you think you don’t like Negronis, this is a great cocktail to show you otherwise.
2. Grapefruit Jalapeno Mezcal Negroni
A common spin on the Negroni is a mezcal negroni. The spicy, smoky heat of the mezcal is perfectly tempered by the bitter orange of the Campari and vermouth in a way that many find irresistible.
And nothing goes better with mezcal than some additional Jalapeno spice and the citrusy punch of grapefruit. With the addition of Haus Grapefruit Jalapeno apéritif, the Grapefruit Jalapeno Mezcal Negroni is a party in a glass that we love.
- One Ounce of mezcal
- One Ounce of Campari
- One Ounce of Haus Grapefruit Jalapeno Apéritif
In a mixing glass filled with ice, combine your mezcal, Campari, and Haus Grapefruit Jalapeno Apéritif. Stir until chilled, and strain into a rocks glass with one large ice cube. Enjoy!
Still as simple as the original with a simple swap of the vermouth, the Haus Grapefruit Jalapeno in this mezcal negroni is the perfect combination of bitter, sweet, and spicy flavors working together. You’ll have to try this drink to believe it — it’s that good!
3. The White Negroni
Negroni’s are most well known for their bright, shining red hue. So, how could you possibly offer a white Negroni? Well, it’s simple: Take out the Campari.
There’s a bit more to it than that since a Negroni without the Campari is basically just a strange martini. Still, this Negroni recipe is awesome for people who really can’t stomach Campari but want to give a Negroni-style cocktail a try.
- One Ounce of Gin
- One Ounce of Lillet Blanc
- One Ounce of Suze (or another clear apéritif)
In a mixing glass, combine your gin, Lillet Blanc, and Suze (or another clear apéritif). Add ice, and stir until chilled. Strain into a rocks glass with one large ice cube, and optionally garnish with an orange peel.
The best part about the White Negroni? It is just as versatile as the original Negroni, offering nearly endless variations by substituting your Lillet for another clear apéritif. This can completely change the flavors while still offering a three-ingredient, equal parts recipe that is oh-so-simple to follow.
You can also give it a citrus boost by replacing your Size with Haus Citrus Flower apéritif, which gives a bright and floral boost to the gin. Or take things in a wilder direction by using Haus Ginger Yuzu apéritif for a spicy, citrusy punch in an otherwise subtle drink.
The options are endless — now go explore.
4. Negroni Sbagliato
Finally, we’ve got the Negroni Sbagliato. This cocktail loosely translates from Italian to “Mistaken Negroni.” The Negroni Sbagliato can be scaled up for party-size servings or scaled down to a single drink. Either way, it’s delicious.
The Negroni Sbagliato is another ingredient swapping shakeup. This time, you’re swapping the gin for prosecco, creating a bubbly, light, and spritz-like cocktail.
- 750ml of Campari
- 750ml of sweet vermouth
- 750ml prosecco
- 1 cup of assorted fruits
- Grated cinnamon for garnish
In a serving bowl or pitcher, combine your Campari, vermouth, and prosecco. Add your assorted fruits and stir to combine. Serve chilled over ice, and consider garnishing each glass with a grating of fresh cinnamon.
It’s as simple as that! And just in case you didn’t already catch it in the recipe, it is still equal parts of the three main ingredients. This makes it super easy to adjust servings for a single drink or large group. Just measure out single ounce pours, or add one or two pieces of seasonal fruit to your glass.
It’s Always a Good Time for a Negroni
The Negroni is an absolutely delicious before-dinner aperitivo drink that has been popular throughout Italy and the world for much of the twentieth century.
The Negroni is a love letter to Campari, the delicious Italian aperitivo that gives the Negroni its famous blood-red hue. Campari’s ingredients list is a secret, but it is a delicious bitter herbal and orange-flavored apéritif.
Making a Negroni is simple: equal parts Campari, sweet vermouth, and gin, served in a rocks glass with one ice cube and an orange peel. But by making substitutions, you can alter flavors to create unique Negroni alternatives.
Haus aperitifs are a great way to spice up a Negroni with new flavors. Simply replace your vermouth with one of our aperitifs to give your Negroni an utterly new flavor experience. There are endless combinations, and you are bound to find a few that you love — perhaps some you like even more than the classic!
Armed with all of this Negroni knowledge, you are ready to make, order, and teach the wonders of the Negroni.