The Negroni is a classic Italian cocktail and it’s creator was a chap called Count Camilo Negroni, born in 1868 as the heir of an aristocratic family. This badly-behaved Italian, who after a disastrous military career had spent his youth as a cowboy adventuring through North America, eventually had to return home and this locally famous lush was regarded as something of a sensation, propping up the bar and telling wild stories of his time in the States.
His peculiar bar order of choice began a fashion, and not knowing how to order it, the drink became ‘that drink Count Negroni drinks’.
A bit of a mouthful - it ended up ‘A Negroni’.
Made up of equal parts of only three ingredients, this is an easy cocktail to make yourself… but how you choose those three ingredients has a huge affect on the drink itself. We've cherry picked six wonderful gins and six delicious vermouths to go alongside the ubiquitous Campari, which will each bring a different dynamic to your classic cocktail - so check through your cupboards to see what you already have, or order some bottles in especially… Here's how to host an experiment at home!
Bombay Sapphire Gin
In the modern era of gin it’s easy to overlook these benchmark products, but we have a lot to thank Bombay Sapphire for. Back in the 80s - gin was in the doldrums! It was prim and old fashioned and the bitter flavours of tonic and the floppy old lemon slice that went in it put people off. Then in 1987, Bombay Sapphire came along.
TASTE : Rather classic in style although light and delicate. Note a forward spice and punch coming from the grains of paradise, tiny little spice bombs from the ginger family that give an almost electric spice.
Broker’s is made in a 200 year old John Dore gin still named Constance, and the recipe used itself is also 200 years old, though launched in the modern era of 1998 by two brothers, and the very definition of chaps, Andy and Martin Dawson. This is as classic and traditional as London Dry can be.
TASTE : A very classic profile, this is everything one would expect from a London Dry, austere, aromatic and with broad shoulders on which to pin the bitters and vermouth. A traditional choice for a classic cocktail.
When Hendrick’s was first conceived, master distiller Leslie Gracie, attempted to create a gin that captured the essence of two uniquely British things, eating cucumber sandwiches in a rose garden.
TASTE : A very present coriander tone, some very subtle rose and elegant cucumber. Using this in a cocktail will give that classic aromatic base we expect from gin but perhaps we can put those lighter floral and fresh notes to good use by pairing with a lighter style of vermouth.
Fords Gin is a much-loved favourite of the bartending community, and not only because it has been set up by some truly great bartenders! Therefore the starting point for Fords Gin was opposite to many products in that it was designed with cocktails in mind. Fords is made by industry legend Charles Maxwell, whose family have eight generations of gin distilling.
TASTE : A truly unctuous London Dry, round, perfectly balanced with each botanical working in play with one another rather than any angular surprises. A delightful tone of orange, jasmine and the dusty violet from the orris root peeks through. This would work wonderfully as a centre piece to any Negroni and with such a charming palate you would perhaps not wish to mask it with a very pronounced vermouth.
Cocchi Vermouth di Torino
Another of the classic houses of vermouth from Turin - the origin of this style and so dubbed the ‘Kingdom of Vermouth’. The original recipe calls for rhubarb and cinchona, giving the vermouth its light brown colour.
TASTE : On the nose we find cocoa and bitter orange, camphor, rosemary, with delicate notes of wormwood, sandalwood, musk, nutmeg and myrrh, and a very well balanced and rich vermouth that plays very well with other spirits.
Belsazar Red Vermouth
Made in Germany, on the perimeters of the Black Forest, Belsazar arrange their vermouth around red grapes such as Pinot Noir and the aromatic Moscatel. Wormwood, spices, herbs and blossoms are macerated with the wines and the vermouth is then fortified using fruit brandy from the famous Black Forest distillery Schladerer.
TASTE : Big hits of unusual spices such as tonka and a fantastically big body. This is an extremely characterful vermouth. Our options are to either let it be the glorious main event or to pick a gin that can stand up to these big flavours.
Regal Rogue Wild Rosé Vermouth
An Aussie vermouth, really shaking up the category to offer what they describe as ‘quaffable’ vermouth. The Wild Rosé uses a shiraz rose base and plenty of wild botanicals, the emphasis being on native, fruit driven flavours such as strawberry gum, Illawarra plum, Rosella and rhubarb. There is no wood used, no caramel, and 30% less sugar than a typical vermouth.
TASTE : A lovely vermouth that really celebrates the wine base with that fruit driven flavour you should be able to use this to real success for a lighter, fruitier style of Negroni, and it should pair well with more floral, fruity tones.
Martini Riserva Speciale Rubino
Martini, or until recently, Martini & Rossi, is one of only a handful of heritage vermouth makers of Turin. The company was founded in 1863 at the foot of the Alps, close to the mountain herbs, and the railway by which the others were transported. The Rubino is a fantastic vermouth that celebrates the wine contribution, a portion of the recipe that is often muted. They use Italian wines such as the intense and deep Nebbiolo from the Langhe DOC, selected by Beppe Musso, their Master Blender. The bottle is labelled with the crest of the Kingdom of Savoy, the historic land vermouth was first created in, and where the style Vermouth di Torino was first made.
TASTE : Complex with earthy undertones and deep blackcurrant and berry. Plenty of wormwood providing structure.
Finally - when it comes to the Negroni one thing however usually remains constant, and that is the bitter, the original ingredient in the Negroni since its moment of discovery by Count Camilo. Step in Campari.
Campari was first created in 1860 by Gaspere Campari who set out to create his own bitters, using the bitter chinotto orange, and cascarilla, and giving it a vibrant, eye-catching colour from crushed Cochineal beetles.
TASTE : Incredible balance of sweet to bitter. Obvious bitter orange characteristics that are drawn from the chinotto, perhaps you might be lucky enough to note the rhubarb or ginseng on the palate. On its own this might be almost overwhelmingly bitter but once paired with the aromatics of gin and the soft herbaceous vermouth we will have tamed the bitterness.
If you'd like to attend a tutored Negroni Experiment to find your perfect combination, DrinkUp.London hosts regular sessions for just £15 at TT Liquor.