That canonical expression of strong and stirred, the Negroni has gained a veritable cult status in recent years. Built most often (but not always) on an equal-parts formula of gin, sweet vermouth and Campari, this now-ubiquitous template has spurred what seems like an endless number of mutations.
Even within the traditional parameters of the drink, variations abound, with many bartenders simply swapping out the traditional Campari for one of the dozens of new Italianite red bitters that have recently come to market. Then there are the drink’s close relatives—the Boulevardier, for instance, which replaces the gin with bourbon, or the White Negroni, made with gin, Suze and Lillet Blanc—which have become tried-and-true modern classics in their own right.
While these riffs might not read as Negronis at first glance, they nevertheless adhere to the bitter, bracing nature of the original, with some mimicking the classic recipe more closely than others. Julie Reiner, for example, sticks to the equal-parts ratio for her Kula Negroni, but opts for bianco vermouth rather than sweet, then adds a fruit element by way of strawberry-infused Campari. Naren Young, whose New York bar, Dante, famously boasts an entire section of the menu dedicated to the Italian classic, leans on a more herbal profile. His Alpine Negroni swaps in Cocchi Americano for Lillet Blanc, then adds a cooling measure of both génépy and crème de menthe for a high-altitude play on the White Negroni.
The Negroni riff has become so ubiquitous that it has spawned riffs on riffs—many of which turn the forebear on its head. Joaquín Simó‘s Midnight Marauder, for example, swaps out each of the three building blocks (calling on mezcal rather than gin, Bonal for sweet vermouth and Cynar in place of Campari), but adheres to the equal-parts formula. Cory Fitzsimmons’ Bitter Almond Negroni represents an even less traditional spin, offering a stirred mix of grappa and bitter Cocchi Americano Rosa, bolstered by spicy Becherovka, citrusy China-China and a small measure of Suze. By contrast, Dan Greenbaum’s savory Remember the Alimony calls on the expected gin, but in a shorter measure than that of both Cynar and fino sherry, proving that even in a three-ingredient drink, there’s always room for improvement.
Bitter Is Better