Bartender Re-education: The Negroni

The Bartender Re-education Plan took a break but now that the holidays are pretty much over, so are the excuses. You must make 1,000 Negronis before you ever change the 1:1:1 ratio.  Changing the ratios changes the recipe.  Using dry vermouth instead of sweet is not a Negroni.  Using some amaro other than Campari is not a Negroni.  And subbing out gin, really makes it not a Negroni.  The path to being a better bartender is understanding the brands and techniques of the Negroni, not in changing the ratios.  I want my Negronis always in equal parts, yet I always want them balanced, this can be achieved but understanding flavor.  There are 2 ways for a Negroni to be made: stirred and up or stirred and strained over fresh ice.

How do you make these 2.5 styles?

  • AmericanO– In the beginning (before the Negroni) there was an Americano Highball.  This is sweet vermouth, Campari and soda.  It is the perfect pre meal cocktail that never was.  The Americano Highball can only be ordered from good bartenders, however you normally want to order something better from good bartenders.  It is said the Negroni was invented when Count Camillo Negroni wanted his Americano Highball with gin instead of soda.  That substitution is for winners.
  • European- Rocks. The Euro-Negroni is on the rocks, if chianti or lasagna is on the menu expect a Negroni or the rocks.  But TWIST! This Negroni is often shit! Why? because you can’t pour 3 oz of room temp booze over ice to get a good cocktail.  The ice with immediately begin to melt, thus producing a watery, and warm cocktail.  You must stir and strain an ICE COLD cocktail over fresh ice, pouring cold over cold maintains the proper balance in the cocktail.
  • American- It has been the general consensus in American bartending that every drink is better chilled and served up.  That is the way of the American Negroni.  But I feel that an exception to this rule arises in drinks that are sweeter, with a high sugar content.  Those drinks (Negroni included) are awful when they warm up and they live longer on ice.  Other examples of sticky drinks that seem to do better on ice would be the Rusty Nail, The Godfather or other all spirit fern bar, “classics.”

What is the technique needed?

  • Stirred-  a Negroni is stirred and strained into a chilled glass or over fresh ice.  To shake a Negroni is to have thick sliced truffles, under cooked foie gras or burlap lingerie; don’t ruin luxuary
  • Zest-  The orange zest is the 4th ingredient.  Campari and vermouth don’t have a strong scent; gin does, but not when paired with these 2 sweet bottles.  The orange zested over the cocktail treats your nose to the cocktail.

What are the other variables?

  • Gin- There are 3 legal definitions of gin, arguably 6 or 7 styles (not including genever) and over 100 brands on the market in America with a new one made by a micro-distiller every week.  What I’m saying: pair your gin with your vermouth. More subtle gins need more subtle vermouths.  Larger, earthier or more herbal gins can stand up to the big very sweet vermouths.
  • Vermouth- Without brand bashing, some gins would be completely un-recognizable as gins when paired with too flavorful of a vermouth.  In addition to which, the Negroni is a drink that must be treated like a cocktail that has a fresh product in it: vermouth.  Vermouth left out at room temperature goes bad like milk and I don’t see a sour cream White Russian catching on anytime soon.  No amount of technique and no price point of boutique gin can save a Negroni from bad vermouth.

What does it mean to get, “Negronked?”

Getting Negronked is term for a lexical gap I have found in the English Language for, “getting drunk on fancy drinks.”  I coined this one about 5 years ago and it has been an uphill battle.  But I implore you, next time you go out to hit the fancy bars, remember, “get Negronked!”

Negroni on the rocks, yes I made it in a studio, but I still drank it. Photo by Ryan McVay



  • 1 oz Gin
  • 1 oz Sweet Vermouth
  • 1 oz Campari
  • Stir and strain over fresh ice or into a chilled cocktail class
  • Garnish with an orange zest

After all of that, of course you can change the ratios.  But it is the last thing to practice in Negroni crafting, you need to understand the rules before you break them.

This entry was posted in Bartender Re-Education Plan, campari, Classic Cocktails, Cocktails, Gin, negroni, sweet vermouth. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Bartender Re-education: The Negroni

  1. Matt says:

    Great post. I’d be curious to know some of your favorite brand pairings (vermouth/gin) since this is such an important factor for a quality Negroni.

  2. In the past year I have gone from having never tasted a Negroni, to it becoming one of my favorite go-to drinks at an unfamiliar bar for a benchmark test. Recently in San Francisco, I came across an upscale restaurant/bar that wanted to make a Negroni with vodka. I was vomitously horrified. That is not a Negroni. One should NEVER have to specify gin in a Negroni (unless preferring a particular brand).

    Do you have any particular preferences for gin/vermouth pairings? Currently I’ve only got a bottle of Beefeater London Dry and a bottle of Hayman’s Old Tom. Any suggestions for gins and/or vermouths that you recommend?

  3. Also, “burlap lingerie” = wonderful visual. Well done.

  4. Aaron says:

    The Negroni is among my favorite drinks also.

    I love the pairing of a bold New American Gin such as Aviation w/ a complex sweet Vermouth such as Vya.

    If I go a more traditional gin route, I think that Martin Miller’s (Westbourne strength strongly preferred) paired up with Dolin.

  5. Not so sure about the post.

    -> Dilution: a post on, suggested, that ice is melting in a beverage as long as the drink is basically above 0ºC. Means, if you build the drink and stir it properly in the glass, the drink won’t be overdiluted – as long you have used enough ice [the ice shape and temperature, didn’t changed anything of the result].

    -> Americano h i g h b a l l…
    The Americano [as the Negroni] are Italian drinks – a highball is an American concept. I see an Americano much more in the context of a Campari Soda [which is definitely NOT a highball] – originally it was [and should be] served as 2 parts of Campari and one part soda – and this is totally different to a highball, which is always a long drink, at least turning the proportions up side down. So a Americano is a softened Campari Soda – a Negroni is negating this effect and becomes somewhat a whole different beast…

    -> Brands: I think, we supposed to suggest much more brands in recipes. Products are widely different [see alone the red vermouth, which can be from easy like wine to concentrated like liqueur]. At least the style should be mentioned [historical I would recommend a juniper heavy London dry gin – as this was the predominant style of gin, when the Negroni was invented [the modern complex gins, just really took of in the 1980’s with Bombay Sapphire].

  6. Brian Oakes says:

    Nice post, you seem to be in top form after the Christmas hell week. “Don’t ruin luxury”….i just about spewed my Cynar all over my iPad reading that one. Nice.

  7. Let's Tiki says:

    About six months ago I had my first Negroni and I really enjoyed it. Since then I have one when I go out to places that serve quality cocktails. Thank you for the background on the Negroni, and your bar tender re-education!

  8. ChrisB says:

    I’m a fan of New Amsterdam gin with Dolin vermouth, myself.

  9. Peregrine John says:

    Count me with the others who would enjoy, not to mention be enormously educated by, an article on pairing gins and vermouths. Specifics count almost as much as theory in these cases, and more for those of us who haven’t wandered far into the ways of vermouth.

  10. seanlorre says:

    Great post… I used to think that Campari was the devil’s spirit before I was talked into trying a negroni, now I’m a convert! I’m a fan of Stock for sweet vermouth, I tried making a negroni with Punt e Mes once but it turned out way too bitter.

  11. Pingback: The Lamb’s Club « The Five O'Clock Cocktail Blog

  12. Very good article, and I’ll have you know I’m helping you spread the term ‘Negronked’. :p

  13. Pingback: Коктейль «Negroni» » Malty Puppy

  14. a. west says:

    My favorite interpretation of the classic includes ..

    Miller’s Gin
    Carpano Antica
    Blood Orange Absinthe
    Stir and strain over fresh ice or into a chilled cocktail class
    Garnish with an orange zest

  15. Pingback: Коктейль «Negroni» | Malty Puppy

  16. Zach says:

    What about doing a flamed orange zest? Or is that just something that bartenders started doing for looks?

  17. BarMeister says:

    I’m am a huge fan of the New Amsterdam gin with Dolin vermouth, myself.

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