Frozen, smoked, carbonated, gelatinized, just plain different – a Negroni on a cocktail menu is often a bit of a statement for the bar. This classic cocktail, composed of equal parts gin, Campari, and vermouth, is one that bartenders love to add their mark to – for both good and bad. Not that a bartender would ever try to make a bad drink; it’s just that sometimes the Negroni experimentations take away the classic taste, leaving you with a drink far removed from the original. (But they’re still worth a try – especially smoked or Mezcal Negronis!)
So what makes the Negroni so easy – and tempting – to mess with? The cocktail only has three ingredients which demand perfect balance, but allow for minute adjustments that have a major effect on the end concoction. It’s a drink that allows for experimental tinkering, and shows immediate results.
While the Negroni is only composed of three ingredients, they must be mixed in perfect balance to avoid making the cocktail too bitter, the effect of too much Campari. But, you can also run into issues with making it too sweet (too much sweet Vermouth) or too dry (too much gin). Many cocktail rules, however, are made to be bent – or broken completely – if it means that you can create just as good as or better drink.
History of the Negroni
So where did this cocktail originate? A lot of myth surrounds the creation of the Negroni, but the most commonly accepted story involves Count Camillo Negroni, a well-traveled Florentine aristocrat who was also quite a colorful character, according to Sulle Tracce del Conte: La Vera Storia del Cocktail Negroni by Luca Picchi. Count Negroni came to America for a few years, where he worked as a rodeo cowboy and took up gambling. He then made his way to London, where it is supposed he took a liking to gin.
In the early 20th century, Italians came to love the Americano, which was a mix of Campari, sweet vermouth, and soda – not the modern-day coffee drink we order so often at Starbucks. The Florentine Count Negroni, however, found the Americano to be too sweet and sought out Fosco Scarselli, a bartender at Caffé Carsoni in Florence, to dry it out. His solution was to replace the soda with gin, and so was born the Negroni.
Or so the story goes.
How to Make a Negroni
- 1 oz Gin
- 1 oz Campari
- 1 oz Italian Vermouth
A Negroni has two serving options: with or without ice. Option One: Add all ingredients plus ice to a cocktail shaker, and stir – vigorously. Then strain into a chilled cocktail glass without ice. Option two: Add all ingredients to a cocktail glass with ice, and stir. Matt Seiter in The Dive Bar of Cocktail Bars recommends a Negroni up, as the ice can dilute the drink making it hard for your palate to enjoy all the“nuances of each component” that shine through if you let the drink naturally warm as you sip it.
Seiter also recommends that if you’ve never tried a Negroni before that you give the drink at least four sips to develop. The Negroni is very bitter, and it takes a little while for the gin’s herbal flavor to come through.
Brands to Try
Use one of the following brands to create a Negroni at home:
- Broker’s Gin
- Leopold Bros. Navy Strength Gin
- Spring44 Gin
- Hendrick’s Gin
- Cocchi Vermouth di Torino
- Carpano Antica
- Vya Sweet
- Dolin Vermouth de Chambéry Rouge
Where to Find the Perfect Negroni in Denver
Create your own Negroni “pub crawl”, and try this cocktail at both Coohills (1400 Wewatta) and The Squeaky Bean (1500 Wynkoop) on the same night- they’re both within walking distance. Or head to the Highlands, and start with Old Major (3316 Tejon Street), and then head to Ste. Ellie’s (1553 Platte Street) for their Broken Negroni – a bit of a twist on the classic cocktail, made with Campari, Martini Gran-Lusso Vermouth, Grapefruit Juice and Graham-Beck Brut Rose.
Lower 48 (2020 Lawrence Street) is a relatively new addition to the Five Points area, specializing in contemporary American cuisine – as in the food of the “lower 48 states”. They offer a classic Negroni.
Where to Find the Perfect Negroni in Boulder
Salt Bistro Boulder (1047 Pearl Street, Boulder) is well known for its food, but also has a Spring 44 Blood Orange Negroni, which is about as tasty as they come since it still has the traditional bitterness, but the citrus of the blood orange balances it a bit more. And if you’re already on a Negroni hunt in Boulder, you might as well make a trip to both The Bitter Bar (835 Walnut Street, Boulder) and Oak at Fourteenth (1400 Pearl Street, Boulder). Both of these places specialize in classic Negronis.
Want to find the perfect Old-Fashioned in Denver? Check out the previous article in this series.