How to Make Negroni:
Original Recipe and Cocktail Variations

Perfect for aperitivo or an after meal, Negroni is a most delicious bitter cocktail. You can enjoy it in any season and in different variations: Negroni Sbagliato and Americano are the most popular in Italy. Learn how to make Negroni cocktail: here you are the original negroni recipe and variations.

how to make negroni cocktail

Once you come to Italy, you must have an aperitivo with a great cocktail. One of the most common choices is Negroni (my favorite as well).

Red Vermouth, Bitter and Gin. These are the three ingredients for an extraordinary cocktail. 

Prices for Negroni vary from € 5.00 in bars in small towns to € 10.00 in the city.

When the price is higher than that it is because your drink comes with a choice of food – we call that aperitivo or apericena. If you pay more than that and no food is served..well, you might have ended up in a very fancy restaurant!

Et voilà, your drink is then ready to be enjoyed with your friends with tasty appetizers like Ascolana olives, pizzette (small pizzas), focaccia, piadina, prosciutto and cheese.

1. Negroni History and Origin

Invented in Florence, Negroni has become popular all over the world. There is a story behind it, involving an aristocrat and a barman.

The place where our scene takes place is called Caffé Casoni, where the Earl Camillo Negroni would always order an Americano cocktail.

One day, the Earl Negroni asked the barman Fosco Scarselli to add some Gin instead of soda, to give an edge to the classic drink. Intrigued by this new version of Americano, other customers started ordering it so much that it became a stand-alone cocktail, named after the Earl Negroni.

Barman Scarselli then added his personal touch: to distinguish Negroni from Americano, he served the first with a slice of orange instead of the lemon slice in the Americano.

As the cocktail became more and more popular, the Negroni family decided to open Negroni Distillerie in Treviso, and started producing Antico Negroni 1919, a ready-made version of the cocktail.

How to Make Negroni Cocktail

2. Original Negroni Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 oz gin
  • 1 oz sweet red Vermouth
  • 1 oz Campari
  • ice cubes
  • an orange slice

Equipment

Negroni Cocktail Recipe

  1. Place ice cubes in an old-fashioned glass to cool it down.
  2. Pour gin, Campari, and sweet Vermouth using the jigger, a most important bartender’s tool.
  3. Stir with a bar spoon.
  4. Garnish with a flaming orange slice.

Negroni is always stirred, not shaken, and served on the rocks. It comes with an orange slice (sometimes peel) used as garnish.

 

 

3. Negroni Ingredients

3.1 Campari Bitter

The secret ingredient to have the best Negroni ever is definitely Campari, an alcoholic aperitif infused with herbs and fruit, that includes a small bitter orange called “chinotto”.

Campari was invented accidentally by Gaspare Campari in 1860.  As in Italy it’s common to end a meal – especially big meals with several courses – with a bitter ‘digestif’ to settle one’s stomach, Gaspare Campari thought of something to have before the meal, instead of after.

The Campari company opened its first production plant in Sesto San Giovanni, near Milan, in 1904 and was then exported overseas.

Today, Campari is distributed in about 200 countries and is essential for many cocktails, including the Americano.

If you have no Campari at home you can opt for other bitter like Berto, Gagliardo, Rossi d’Angera or Martini.

Original Negroni Recipe

3.2 Sweet Vermouth

If you wish to follow the original negroni recipe, you need a sweet Vermouth. You may be wondering “what if I use a dry or white Vermouth instead?”. Well, it won’t be the classical recipe and the taste will be different.

Some good Italian Vermouth brands are Carpano, Cocchi, Martini and Cinzano.

3.3 Dry Gin

The most common gin used for Negroni is London Dry, but other good varieties are Beefeater, Tanqueray and Gordon’s.

If you substitute gin with another liquor like vodka, tequila, mezcal or anything else, you won’t get the same taste as the original Negroni recipe.

how to make negroni cocktail recipe

4. How to Serve Negroni: Glass and Garnish

The Old Fashioned glass is the typical way of serving it, even though some bars decide to go for fancier choices.

As for the garnish, a nicely trimmed orange peel (sometimes a slice of orange) to decorate and give a fruity touch will do just fine. Some even spray essential oil on the peel.

 

5. Negroni Cocktail Variations

5.1 Americano cocktail, the Godfather of Negroni

Americano is one of the Negroni cocktail varations. How to make it? Here you are the ingredients:

  • 1 oz Bitter Campari
  • 1 oz Red Vermouth
  • a splash of soda

Americano cocktail is served in an Old Fashioned glass with ice cubes.

Americano Cocktail

Despite its overseas name, this drink was born in Italy. At the beginning of the 20th century, in Italian bars you could find Americano cocktail previous version called “Milano-Torino”.

It was composed of ½ Bitter Campari (from Milan) and ½ Martini Rosso (from Turin). With just a splash of seltz, this drink was turned into a modern cocktail, lighter and with fragrant citrus aroma: the Americano

Tribute to Primo Carnera, the first European boxeur to win the world championship, this drink was different from other Italian cocktails as it was served “on the rocks”.

In fact, in the States it was popular and trendy to serve cocktails this way and this trend crossed the ocean to come to our beautiful land.

It should be noted that at that time in Italy ice makers weren’t common. As a matter of fact, bars having such a machine were considered quite fashionable.

Americano cocktail FUN FACT 

Americano original recipe appeared in Fleming’s Casino Royale. Even James Bond appreciated its bitter mouth-filling taste!

5.2 Negroni Sbagliato: from a mistake to a fashionable drink

Our story begins in Milan, in the still open Bar Basso in via Plinio 39. Since 1947 this bar has been a great venue for gathering.

In 1972, Venetian bartender Mirko Stocchetto accidentally added sparkling white wine (more specifically dry spumante) instead of the usual gin to a Negroni.

It was a mistake but it turned out to be a great invention: the creation of a classic cocktail that anyone can enjoy all around the world today.  Even its name is appropriate as in Italian “sbagliato” means mistaken.

Negroni Cocktail Variations

Negroni Sbagliato is ideal for those who want to enjoy a lighter version of Negroni without having to renounce its classic bitter sharp taste we all love.

Negroni Sbagliato is made of :

  • 1 oz Bitter Campari
  • 1 oz Red Vermouth
  • 1 oz Spumante Brut (poured on top) 

Negroni Sbagliato is served in a double rocks glass with ice and garnished with a slice of orange.

 

5.3 Other Negroni Cocktail Variations

There are also other Negroni cocktail variations like Negroni Rosato (rosé wine instead of gin) or Negrosky (vodka instead of gin). 

In some places you can even ask for a Negroni with Aperol, if you’re looking for a mix between the sparkling light Spritz and sharp Negroni. Honestly, I would never order it with Aperol as it wouldn’t be as bitter as the classic Negroni. If you’re looking for something lighter just take a Spritz.

If you make it at home, try to balance all the ingredients following the proportions of the original recipe and then you’re free to come up with your own version of Negroni!

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Images credits: (first image) Negroni by Edsel L, “Jean Georges Leon Carlu . Cinzano” by kitchener.lord // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0; …due Negroni! by franzconde // CC BY 2.0; CODOGNATO, Plinio. Spumanti Cinzano, 1930 by Halloween HJB is marked with CC0 1.0.

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