The Negroni is, quite simply, a perfect cocktail. Maybe it’s the perfect cocktail. With equal parts Campari, gin, and sweet vermouth, it couldn’t be easier to make, proving that, like Stooges and Musketeers, the best things really do come in threes. Intended to be sipped, it’s refreshing on a hot day. It’s youthful next to an Old Fashioned. It lends the drinker a certain continental sophistication. And it doesn’t skimp on the ABV.
Bitter, sweet, dry, and refreshing all at once, the carmine-colored cocktail has developed a reputation as a summer mainstay, but the truth is there’s never really a bad time to whip one up. And this year, the Negroni is celebrating its hundredth birthday. We’ll drink to that.
A Little Background
A full century ago, an Italian Count by the name of Camillo Negroni stepped into his favorite café and pleaded for something stronger than his typical Americano—a concoction of Campari, sweet vermouth, and soda water. (He was likely ordering it by its original name, the Milano-Torino, or Mi-To, but it was rebranded for the American ex-pats who came to love it during Prohibition.) His friend and bartender Fosco Scarselli substituted gin for soda, added an orange garnish, and the Negroni was born.
Over the last 100 years, the Negroni has picked up quite the following: Our Esquire colleague Ernest Hemingway was a noted fan of the drink, as was the late great Anthony Bourdain, who frequently made them for his film crew while on the road. In 2013, Imbibe Magazine and Campari launched an annual event called “Negroni Week” that has raised around $2 million for various charitable causes, and of course, enormous awareness of the three-ingredient cocktail.
Need a fun party fact? Until 2006, Campari (which gives the drink its color) got its ruby red hue from crushed-up little bugs called cochineals. Campari uses an artificial dye now, but cochineals are still common in the spirits world. Bottoms up.
If You Like This, Try These
Any Negroni lover looking to switch things up should start where it all began: the Americano (née: Mi-To). Swap in club soda for the gin and garnish with lemon for a lower-ABV option that still packs a bite. For another summer option, try the Negroni’s cousin: an Aperol Spritz. Aperol is both lighter and less bitter than Campari, with an equal amount of sweetness. Vermouth or Campari solo over rocks also makes for a stylish order, but be warned: They tend to catch up with you faster than you might think.
What You Need
Here’s what you need to do a Negroni justice, beyond what you might be able to dig out of the fridge or cupboard.