Posted June 1, 2020

The Negroni: Classic Cocktail Stands the Test of Time

Eat + Drink

Negroni cocktail

In 1919, a well-dressed member of the Italian aristocracy walked into the Caffè Casoni in Florence, Italy, and asked the barman to punch up his favorite cocktail — the Americano. Fosco Scarselli, the barman, thought for a moment and replaced the soda water with gin, and to signify that this was a brand-new cocktail he replaced the traditional lemon with an orange. The drink quickly caught on, sweeping the globe.

Today the classic Negroni remains a gold standard for bartenders; it’s possible to find a passable version at nearly any bar in nearly any country. Whether hewing to the classic formula of equal parts or adjusting an ingredient slightly, this cocktail remains recognizable regardless of how distorted it may become.

Negroni cocktail

The Classic Negroni
1 ounce gin, 1 ounce Campari, 1 ounce sweet vermouth
Stirred, served up or over ice with an orange peel expressed across the surface

Endless variations exist — simply swapping out gin for bourbon, for example, yields another classic, the Boulevardier. It was first compounded by Harry MacElhone in Paris at Harry’s New York Bar in honor of Erskine Gwynne, the editor of the Parisian fashion monthly Le Boulevardier.


The Boulevardier
1 ounce bourbon, 1 ounce Campari, 1 ounce sweet vermouth
Stirred, served up or over ice with an orange peel expressed across the surface


Bartenders love to riff and experiment with the core recipe, playing with the combination of bitter herbs (vermouth, amaro, etc.) and base spirit (gin, Tequila, mezcal, etc.). Campari is one of the hardest ingredients to replace — the combination of intense sweet, bitter and body is difficult to replicate. Many would say a Negroni without Campari is no Negroni at all.

Capstone Negroni
½ ounce mezcal, 1 ounce Campari, 1½ ounces pineapple-infused blanc vermouth
Stirred, served up or over ice with a spritz of Cruzan Black Strap rum across the surface

Negroni Week 2015, June 1–7, is a celebration of this timeless and malleable classic. Participating bars (find the list here) have partnered with Gruppo Campari and Imbibe magazine, and are donating proceeds from the sale of each Negroni to a charity of that bar’s choice.

— Mike Ryan
Mike Ryan is Kimpton’s National Manager of Bar Education

Photos: Negronis — Aubrie Pick; Campari bottle — Tim Sackton/Flickr; banner image — Franz Conde/Flickr


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