What does the ideal Negroni occasion look like? Is it an aperitivo or a nightcap? Is it equal parts or a ratio that favors gin to vermouth, or red bitter to gin? It turns out that the drink can embrace many guises depending on the time, the place and the person making it.
For Brad Thomas Parsons, author of Amaro, Last Call and Bitters, the Negroni is a perennial cocktail: “I drink Negronis any time of day, no matter the season.” But for MARTINI & ROSSI® North American brand ambassador Fabio Raffaelli, the Negroni moment is specific: “Negroni is always a pre-dinner—it’s an aperitivo.” He concurs, though, that the drink’s widespread appeal has pushed boundaries. “It became so popular that lately I see people everywhere drinking them at any time.”
Similarly, the construction of the drink itself, though doctrinaire in formula—gin, vermouth, bitter—is an ever-expanding universe of experimentation. Here, tips from the pros on how to make the most of this Italian cocktail, which has attained beloved status the world over.
“The Negroni is an incredibly versatile drink,” says Max Green, a bartender in Brooklyn. “The three ingredients allow for infinite variation to fit your palate and the occasion.” Green says the structure can become lighter, heavier, more herbal or juicier, depending on your mood.
Adding non-potable bitters or switching up the vermouth, say MARTINI & ROSSI® Riserva Speciale Rubino for Ambrato vermouth, can add a whole new dimension and texture to the well-explored blueprint. Ruby Wilson, the West Coast brand ambassador for MARTINI & ROSSI, likes to swap spirits, too: “There’s always room to experiment. Don’t like gin? Try it with tequila or mezcal. Want something a little lighter [tasting]? Try a Negroni Sbagliato, subbing Champagne for the gin.”
Parsons agrees: “That three-ingredient, equal-parts equation lends itself to so many wonderful variations,” he says, himself pledging allegiance to the bubbly Sbagliato variation. “This, to me, is the perfect hybrid of a playful, sessionable spritz and a cosmopolitan Negroni.”
Work the Ratio
A most controversial aspect of the Negroni is the ratio. While traditionally equal parts gin to red bitter to vermouth, these days, bartenders have taken creative license and skewed the recipe to their own specifications. Green prefers a 2:1:1 ratio of London dry gin to red bitter to MARTINI & ROSSI Riserva Speciale Rubino vermouth. He adds two dashes of Angostura bitters for a touch more bite. Parsons sticks to equal parts. “The Negroni’s equal-parts, three-ingredient profile is a big part of its charm and ease of stirring up at home,” he says. His only stipulation beyond equal parts is that it be served on the rocks: “Not a fan of Negronis served up.” As an Italian, Raffaelli has his own reason for being true to the classic ratio, saying its equal parts are a representation of the ideal Italian lifestyle—“one-third work, one-third sleep, one-third fun.”
The Negroni formula is the perfect candidate for a crowd. Easily batched and dispatched into a punch bowl or a pitcher, it can be stretched as a party progresses. Green recommends batching, diluting and chilling in advance, “to save time, and for the added bonus of an incredibly luscious texture.” He serves it over ice with a lemon twist.
The Time and the Place Are Up to You
For some, the Negroni is a dyed-in-the-wool aperitivo, meant for that liminal hour between work and dinnertime. “The Negroni is the perfect cocktail for an aperitivo in the sunshine with friends,” Wilson says, but she also loves it as a digestif. “If I’m…in need of a nightcap, a Negroni is always a solid choice. Its bitterness is great to wake up and open the palate but also [for ending the evening.]” For Parsons, the cocktail’s easy construction makes it the best drink to order “with confidence” at any bar, at any time.
Low-ABV White Negroni Kit
Celebrate National Negroni Week all month long with a lower-proof version of the classic cocktail: the White Negroni.
Featuring MARTINI & ROSSI Extra Dry Vermouth, non-alcoholic aperitivo Floreale and BOMBAY SAPPHIRE® gin, and complete with grapefruit for garnish and two rocks glasses for serving. The kit serves 8-16, perfect for entertaining mindfully with Italy’s most iconic cocktail.
- From: Cocktail Courier