CLASSIC: The Negroni


One of the great ironies of the bartending profession is that most professional cocktail bartenders don’t drink cocktails in their leisure time. You’ll usually find them sucking back on a Cooper’s Pale Ale (trust me, I’ve seen it!). There is one exception to this rule, however. A little aperitif cocktail called the Negroni (gin, Campari and sweet vermouth) is without a doubt the favoured cocktail choice of most discerning bartenders.

In fact, I recently conducted a little survey of some of my bartending friends around the country. Of the ten bartenders I asked, eight said that the Negroni was their favourite classic cocktail. Not the martini, manhattan or old fashioned, the humble little Negroni. That’s some kudos for an Italian beverage whose roots can be traced back to Italy in the 1860s.

According to the most popular origin tale, the Negroni wasn’t invented until around the 1920s. But there would be no Negroni without the invention of its key ingredient Campari and the subsequent Americano cocktail which all happened way back in the 1860s. Gaspare Campari (the man behind the Campari brand) opened a café in Milan to sell his drinks. One of the mixes they served was a fusion of Campari and Cinzano sweet vermouth that they called the ‘Milano-Torino’ (because Campari came from Milan and Cinzano from Turin). When Americans flocked to Europe during Prohibition, the locals noted their love of the drink and as a tribute they dubbed it the Americano.

A local Count, Camillo Negroni was known for frequenting Florentine bars and his favoured tipple was the aforementioned Americano. Apparently while in one such establishment he asked the bartender to add some more bite to his cocktail. The bartender added a nip of gin to the drink and the Count loved it. He ordered the drink all the time, others followed and in honour of his creation, the Negroni cocktail was born.


All that said, the word Negroni doesn’t appear in English cocktail guides until 1947, so the real origins are uncertain. What we do know is that the Negroni is an extremely well-crafted aperitif that both stimulates the appetite and prepares the palate for a meal. It combines the kick of gin, the bitterness fruit and herbaceous character of Campari with the round smoothness of vermouth.

Oliver Stuart, Australian Bartender magazine‘s Bartender of the Year 2006 is baffled to think that there could be any better drink. “When made correctly it is a perfect balance of alcoholic strength, bitterness, sweetness, and citrus flavours,” he enthuses. “All the while remaining floral and refreshing yet strong and smooth. You can’t stop after the first Negroni, as it leaves you craving the next.”

Mark Ward from Hugo’s Bar Pizza in Kings Cross is in complete agreement, saying: “I love the kick and complexity of Gin, and the sweet bitter finish that Campari and Cinzano Rosso add to it.” Mark also suggests adding a couple of drops of orange bitters to the original recipe to bring out the subtle citrus notes.

Before you all rush out and order a Negroni before dinner at your favourite cocktail bar, remember that Campari is a bitter aperitif and sadly, bitterness has become an unwelcome quality in much of today’s food and drink and some palates cannot tolerate the taste of bitterness at all. Appreciation for the quality of bitterness is an acquired taste and many say it’s the sign of a ‘mature palate’. Ah, so that’s why the bartenders love this cocktail so much.

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  1. i am a big fan of the negroni and it’s complexity but just to be a bit different, and to cater for the afformentioned modern tastes we have included the Rosita on our cocktail list. a relation to he negroni the rosita uses tequila, sweet and dry vermouth, and only 15ml of campari though obviouly this can be adapted to individual tastebuds. i found it on robert hess’s website the small screen network and have been drinking it ever since! 

  2. Ahhh the Negroni, what a drink indeed. Interensting fact; i heard from a well known good source of mine that there was never any historical evidence of a count in the 1920’s named Camille Negroni.  i find it constantly amusing that we need to find a romantic story behind every classic cocktail made. Fact- the drink was probably made in the early 1920’s. Fact- the first written reference of ‘negroni’ was in 1947. Myth- Camille Negroni never was.

    Rohan; props for pushing the Rosita!!

  3. Firstable Camillo Negroni was a real person in Firenze during the 20’s, there are proofs about it in the population census.
    Secondable the video is awful: Negroni is an build drink, so no at all a stir cocktail, that’s happen just in Australia and Us.
    Then no way that you serve it straight up and when you serve it on the rocks the original garnish is a slice of orange.
    The right evolution of Negroni is:

    1865’s Torino – Milano : 30ml Amaro Cora + 30 ml Bitter Campari. old-fashion glass
    1900’s Milano – Torino : 30ml Giuseppe Carpano Antica Formula + 30ml Bitter Campari. old-fashion glass
    1915’s Americano: 30 ml Antica Formula + 30ml Bitter Campari + splash soda water. served long with orange slice
    1920’s Negroni: 30ml London Gin+ 30ml Bitter Campari + 30ml Antica Formula. served short with orange slice
    1970’s Sbagliato: 30ml Antica Formula + 30ml Bitter Campari + splash Prosecco d’Asti. served short with orange slice.


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