I have to admit, I'm a little suspicious of the Negroni's popularity. Other drinks, like the Old Fashioned or the martini, are spirit-forward, sure, but they're relatively familiar flavors. People understand bourbon. They know what they're getting with gin. (Or vodka.) A Negroni, though, even when it's well-balanced, is intensely bitter; the Campari shines through above everything else, making the citrus and cinchona bark linger on the palate.
I don't find it to be a very approachable cocktail, which is why I'm not sure that I believe that everyone currently swooning over Negroni Week actually enjoys the drink itself. To me, this is an acquired taste; it's a drink for people that have already learned to appreciate complexity and being able to savor a cocktail with multiple layers. It's not something I would ever recommend to someone who usually drinks Moscow Mules, for example.
All that being said, I fully support people at all points on their Negroni journey! It's a great drink to learn to make, because it's incredibly simple in its build: just equal parts gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth. And that simple base makes it easy to build on—check out my latest piece for the Chicagoist for a few ideas from some of my favorite Chicago bars.
In terms of gin, I'd always go for a London dry-style in this drink rather than a more floral one; the crisp citrus notes complement the Campari and don't muddy up the sweet vermouth. And don't under-stir—water content is actually an essential part of the cocktail recipe.
- 1 oz gin
- 1 oz Campari
- 1 oz sweet vermouth
- Orange peel for garnish (optional)
Add the gin, Campari, and vermouth to a mixing glass with ice and stir for 15-20 seconds. Strain into a rocks glass over ice. Express and garnish with an orange peel if desired.