It's time to upgrade your Negroni recipe! While there's absolutely nothing wrong with the gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth cocktail, if you're a Negroni enthusiast, the trio can get a little dull. Still, there's no reason to move beyond the cocktail, just open it up to a few riffs. This can be as easy as swapping out your favorite gin for another bottle (perhaps try a Scottish gin, Japanese gin, or Empress' distinctly blue-hued 1908 gin), changing up your vermouth or bitter element, or playing around with proportions.
At Dante, a Manhattan bar that specializes in classic cocktails like Negronis, Linden Pride makes his signature Negroni more gin-forward and drier. That is, he adds more gin than Campari and vermouth, so that not all three alcohols are proportional, as in a classic Negroni. Dante offers 14 types of Negronis, which swap in various bitters, Amari, vermouth, and the base spirit. The most popular riff: A Mezcalito which substitutes mezcal for gin.
Negronis are stirred, not shaken, but the way you stir can change up the taste of any Negroni. "Stirring the drink has two roles: one is to chill the drink with ice, and the second role is to dilute the drink," Pride says. "When stirring, we aim to add approximately 10 percent additional volume from the dilution of the ice." Play around with the number of stirs, pace of stirs, and the type of ice you use to see how that changes your own in-house Negroni recipe.
If you're shy about trying out new boozy combinations, consider garnishes to bring out new flavors. "Fresh herbs can do wonders for a Negroni," says Noah Mansker, beverage director of Brooklyn's Colonia Verde. "I'd recommend garnishing the classic with rosemary or basil. Those aromatics play well with the flavor profile of the drink."
For a few more riffs on a classic Negroni, check out the recipes below:
Add some bubbles to your standard Negroni to make it extra special. For a Negroni Americano, pour 1 oz sweet vermouth and 1 oz Campari in a high ball over ice, top off with sparkling water, gently stir, and garnish with an orange slice, suggests Jan Brown, bar manager at Boston's Faccia Brutta. For a Negroni Sbagliato, follow the same method, but swap prosecco in for sparkling water to add a fancy touch.
Also called the Contessa, a Negroni made by swapping Aperol for Campari is a bit sweeter and can be "a good gateway variation to get into the beautiful world of Negronis," Brown says. Just stir 1 oz gin, 1 oz dry vermouth, and 1 oz Aperol over ice and pour into a glass with or without ice. Garnish with a lemon peel.
To up the ABV of your Negroni just a bit, try the Cardinal. "[It's] very close to the original Negroni, but substituting dry vermouth for sweet vermouth and having the gin shine through more, really gives you a little more alcohol and dries the cocktail up," Brown says. The ratio also shifts here, with 1 1/2 oz gin, 3/4 oz dry vermouth, and 3/4 oz Campari.
The dry white Negroni is a favorite, and can even be made in a batch to serve as white Negroni punch. You'll make it with 1 oz gin, 1 oz dry vermouth, and 1 oz Salers or 1 oz Suze, which are lighter colored bitters than the traditional Campari.
Prefer whiskey to gin? The 1794 cocktail is the Negroni for you. Combine 1 1/2 oz rye whiskey, 3/4 oz sweet vermouth, 3/4 oz Campari and 2 dashes Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters in a stirring glass and serve neat or over ice. "The 1794 is a modern classic that really took the complexity in a Negroni to the next level, but is still very easy to execute," Brown says. "The spice component of the rye and the mole bitters harmonize rather nicely with Campari."
Introducing some warming spices to the classic Negroni adds that "home for the holidays" cozy flare. Make a holiday Negroni by infusing Campari with toasted star anise, cinnamon, peppercorns, and cloves overnight, plus extra orange zest, if desired. Then, use the infused Campari to create your standard 1:1:1 Negroni, garnishing with star anise or a cinnamon stick. To really impress guests, serve the drink over ice cubes with star anise or orange peels frozen in the center.