Beautiful and bitter, it’s The Negroni:

  • 1 ounce gin or vodka
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1 ounce Campari
Stir vigorously in an iced mixing glass. Strain into a small cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange slice.

The first time I went to Italy (many years ago), my friend Antonio took me to a bar in Naples. All of the beautiful people were standing around looking beautiful with lovely sparkling red drinks in their hands. To me it looked like fizzy cherry Kool-Aid, and I asked about it. I was told it was “Campari and soda” and I ordered one.

Imagine my surprise when the drink turned out to be extremely bitter, totally throwing off my expectations. This was my first introduction to Italian liqueurs, which all tend to the bitter side.

Italy really isn’t a cocktail culture (way more wine, most of it quite excellent) and the Italians aren’t heavy drinkers. As David Wondrich so aptly put it “A single Australian could drink a roomful of Italians stinkibus and still drive down to the pub for a nightcap.” I do love Italian wine, but as bitter is my least favorite of the five basic “tastes” I also avoid Campari and straight Amari. This makes me avoid heavily hopped IPAs as well, and to some extent peated Scotch.

I was dreading this drink because of the bitterness. I really liked the Boulevardier, which is a Negroni with bourbon instead of gin, bacause that drink had the sweetness of the bourbon to offset the bitter bite. I did some research on alternate recipes, such as this one from Death & Co.:

  • 1.5 ounces Tanqueray London Dry Gin
  • 1 ounce house sweet vermouth
  • 1 ounce Campari
Stir all ingredients over ice, then strain into a double rocks glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

[Note: “house sweet vermouth” means equal parts Dolin Rouge and Punt e Mes]

I liked that this one upped the gin a bit, and I like Wondrich’s recipe even more since it both upped the gin and dropped the vermouth and Campari by another quarter ounce.

But, as I’m trying to make these recipes as Doctor Cocktail intended, I used his recipe, especially since Jeffrey Morganthaler commented just the other day on a “slushy” Negroni using the equal parts version, although he adds orange juice and simple syrup.

As expected, I didn’t like it. I even dropped the orange into it which helped a bit, but I didn’t finish the drink. This is a classic cocktail so I know some people must love it; it just wasn’t for me.

Rating: 2/5 – it is a strong two but since I didn’t quite finish it I can’t give it a three

Notes: A lot of mixologists use Tanqueray as their go-to gin. I don’t really care for it, although I like Tanqueray 10. For this I used Death’s Door. I used Carpano Antica for the sweet vermouth.