The Negroni

February  7, 2013

Some things just go together -- and the obvious accompaniment to food is drink. Welcome to Booze52, in which we explore all manner of libations that do much more than just wash down a meal. 

Today: The best before-dinner drink ever invented, plain and simple.

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Here’s a thing you may not know about cocktails: historically speaking, most of the fun ingredients that get mixed into our favorite drinks -- at least when these drinks were born -- were intended to mask the taste of cheap booze. 

Thanks to a little thing called a top shelf, we don’t have to do that anymore, but with the Negroni, we were never allowed to do anyway. Here's why: it’s a storied drink layered completely with alcoholic ingredients. It has nothing to hide behind, and when made right, it shows. 

When General Pascal Olivier Count de Negroni (yes, he was real!) walked into a Florence bar back in the 1920s, he ordered an Americano with some important changes. “No soda—gin instead,” he said. He was a bright man. Bitter and herbal from Campari, warm from the gin, and smooth from the vermouth, this is one of the best before-dinner drinks ever invented, plain and simple. 


1 ounce smooth gin (I like Tanqueray and Plymouth)
1 ounce Campari
1 ounce sweet vermouth
Orange peel (for garnish)

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Have your own Negroni tips? Tell us about them below! 

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • katal1
  • Clarence
  • Daniel Prince
    Daniel Prince
  • DebraCR
  • Diana Pappas
    Diana Pappas
I spend about an equal amount of time behind the laptop and behind the stove. In between preparing and writing about food, I love to hang out with my husband, three children, big shaggy dog and two cats. History is also my thing, especially the Regency period, U.S. Westward expansion and World War II. Favorite drinks: good pinot noirs and classic martinis. Favorite book: Pride & Prejudice. Favorite obsessions: Laura Ingalls Wilder and South Dakota


katal1 December 8, 2014 has handy business card-sized recipe cards for when you are out and about!
Clarence July 20, 2014
I was playing around with some Pelinkovac (a Croatian liquor) and came up with this:
1 1/2 oz Original Bombay
1 oz Maraska Pelinkovac
1/2 oz St. Germain
5 Dashes Peychauds aromatic Bitters

Stir with ice. Strain up with a lemon twist. (The extra acid in the lemon compliments the sweetness of the St. Germain and the bitterness of the Pelikovac more than orange in my opinion.) Enjoy.
Daniel P. July 20, 2013
Replaced Gin with Mezcal recently and loved the deep smokey earthy pairing with the Campari.
Erika K. July 22, 2013
Wow--that sounds terrific. Anything that is described as "deep, smoky and earthy" has my vote.
DebraCR June 23, 2013
Campari, tonic and lime is lighter and just as satisfying to me.
DebraCR June 23, 2013
If you prefer Vodka to Gin, then call it a Negronski, which I highly recommend.
katal1 April 30, 2013
I meant to say "Never gat a Negroni made with Bacardi again!"
katal1 April 30, 2013
The search for the perfect Negroni is a passion and we have found 2 things that make any acquisition all the better: 1) Uncle Val's gin. (OMG!) and 2) recipe cards. Never get a Negroni made with Campari again!
Diana P. March 7, 2013
Ordering these can be risky - I've had some that were woefully unbalanced, and others which were so good I just had to indulge and order a second (Barbecoa in London made a great one). Good thing the first one I had was delicious, if the first one had been unbalanced I don't think I would have ever tried it again.
Erika K. March 7, 2013
Just goes to show how bartenders can make or break their trusting patrons.
Nozlee S. February 8, 2013
I was THRILLED to learn that you can sub the gin in a Negroni for bourbon and call it a Boulevardier. My new favorite drink, hands down.

(Kenzi, definitely trying it with Cynar next time!)
Kenzi W. February 8, 2013
Ooh, such a good one! Let me know how you like it with Cynar. It's got this really appealing herbal thing happening.
Greenstuff February 7, 2013
Here's my question: I tend to like bitter tastes, more than most I think. But Campari is right at the edge of what I can take. So why is it so popular?
vvvanessa February 8, 2013
You could try Aperol. It's a little lighter in intensity.
duclosbe1 February 7, 2013
This is definitely the best before dinner drink ever. I've been wary to stray from the 1:1:1 ratio, but I might try a more gin heavy version soon!
ellen06 February 7, 2013
I love Campari and I can't drink gin, so I was happy to discover the "Negroni sbagliato" (in Milan it's just a "Sbagliato", which means "mistake" in Italian). It's made with the same Campari and red vermouth, but substitutes sparkling wine for gin (obviously the drier, the better)
enbe February 7, 2013
Thank you! I love negronis but they gross out most people I drink with. I prefer a more gin heavy one as well, ChezHenry.
Erika K. February 8, 2013
why do they gross people out?
ChezHenry February 9, 2013
I too get that reaction. Its the Campari, definitely an acquired or instinctive taste. You like it or you don't. There is no middle ground.
enbe February 9, 2013
People can't handle the bitter Campari, yeah. I think it's so lovely but I can't get haters to take more than a sip to even try to acquire a taste!
Mark A. February 7, 2013
Sometimes I substitute Solerno Blood Orange liqueur for the gin.
ChezHenry February 7, 2013
I love a Negroni, however I prefer a different ratio. I use 2 parts Gin, to 1 part Campari and 1 part Sweet Vermouth. I use Hendricks Gin, Campari and Cocchi Vermouth di Torino. The orange twist (I use a section) is essential, as is a very large ice cube, I have an ice cube maker that makes a big ball of ice sitting in my highball glass. It really enhances your appetite!
Aimless February 7, 2013
Agreed--I like to play with the proportions. Equal parts is a bit sweet and I like to hoard my Campari. Another way to go is four parts gin, two parts campari, one part vermouth. This brings the Campari forward, and at the same time uses less of it. I recommend it.
808katarina February 7, 2013
Yes, Equal parts is a bit sweet for a before dinner drink. Hendricks..thumbs up. Less Campari allows the generous complexity of the Hendricks to smoothly makes it's way through and the campari is like the velvety red bow that wraps up the perfect present. Yummers on the Negroni! One of my top picks as well..I also like a nice Sidecar as a starter.
ChezHenry February 8, 2013
4:2:1 Sounds like a plan. Staying in today to cook up some NYC Blizzard fare-braised veal shanks, soft polenta and red cabbage braised in red wine with some Honey Crisps I picked up at the Union Sq farmers market. I'll give your variation a try to start it off! Why is 5 o'clock seem so far away???
ChezHenry February 8, 2013
My wife has just informed me that on "Blizzard Time" you get to choose when 5 o'clock comes around. I love that woman!
cratecooking February 8, 2013
Negronis for the blizzard--what a great idea!!! Vermouth is now on my list of provisions for the day...
Erika K. February 8, 2013
I'm going to start playing around with ice shapes and sizes. Guess all of you easterners can pop a few icicles in your rocks glass pretty soon!
ChezHenry February 9, 2013
Please do. A Negroni calls for one very large cube or ball of ice. I think with your expertise you can definitely recommend the proper ice for any drink!
ChezHenry February 9, 2013
That is an awesome idea. The chilling and icing of a cocktail is essential to its composition.
ChezHenry February 10, 2013
You inspired me to create a new drink, a Margroni. The 4:2:1 ratio was very nice indeed, obviously a bit stiffer, more cocktailly less aperitivo. I am a Martini man. So tonight i made a Negroni/Martini and it was spot on! I took a shaker full of ice, threw in some Campari, and Dry Vermouth-then tossed it out. My classic in and out Martini. Then in with some Gin(Bombay Sapphire tonight), a hard shake and into my martini class with an Orange twist. Thanks for the inspiration.
Aimless February 14, 2013
Genius! Seems a shame to discard the Campari/Vermouth, but you could always put it in a little bottle in the fridge and recycle it for the next Margroni.
Erika K. February 17, 2013
What else do you use your Campari for/in, Aimless? (feel so weird calling you Aimless, ha!)
Aimless May 31, 2013
Erika: Sorry so slow to respond--just saw this. Aimless is my funny nickname because I'm not aimless at all (although I *am* Amy). I like the Autumn Leaves cocktail. An unlikely alliance of Chile, Italy and Scotland, and a drink in which the flavors are so happily married that you cannot tease them apart. 1 ounce of Pisco Portón, 1 ounce of Drambuie, 1/4 ounce of Campari, 1/4 ounce lime juice. Shake on ice and garnish with lime and orange wedge. Complex and bewitching.
Kenzi W. February 7, 2013
Though I have a strong allegiance to Campari, I'm going to betray it for a moment to say: replace the Campari with Cynar next time you try one. It's totally delicious.
ChezHenry February 7, 2013
I've done that-it's very nice!
vvvanessa February 7, 2013
What a perfect lead-off for the series! The Negroni is one of my favorite drinks to make when I bartend; it's easy to put together but seems much more magical than the effort that goes into it. I also like to use Plymouth, and I will always choose Carpano Antica as the sweet vermouth.

I'm looking forward to reading more!
Marian B. February 7, 2013
I love negronis so much! This is awesome.
fiveandspice February 7, 2013
Yay! My favorite! Best before-dinner drink ever invented is right.