11 Variations on the Negroni and its History

11 Variations on the Negroni and its History

The history of the Negroni dates back to early 20th century Italy when Count Camillo Negroni asked for a stronger version of his favorite cocktail, the Americano. Whether or not this story is true, the Negroni has established itself as a classic among the ranks of the Manhattan and Martini. The classic recipe, which combines gin, sweet vermouth, and bitter Campari in equal parts, creates a perfectly balanced libation that harmonizes the botanicals of the gin with the sweet and bitter flavors of the other two ingredients.

Much like the recognizable crystal clear Martini and dark mahogany Manhattan the Negroni’s iconic crimson color is just as distinguishing. However, its cheery color deceptively conceals its bracing bitterness. It’s a drink with an acquired taste but its impact on the cocktail world can’t be denied — you’ll find endless riffs on this classic.

The History of The Negroni

The story goes that once Count Negroni ordered his new cocktail in 1919, the recipe spread around Italy, where guests would ask for a drink “à la Negroni” before shortening to the last word only. The libation was slow to take hold in Prohibition America, though, where sweeter, easier-to-drink cocktails were all the rage. 

The drink had its moments in the club scene of the 1970s and the cocktail revival of the 2000s. But it wasn’t until 2020 that the Negroni’s popularity in the US surged, thanks in part to a viral video of Stanley Tucci crafting one for his wife. While once a symbol of cocktail expertise, it has become a go-to libation for home bartenders seeking to perfect their craft. Its simple equal-parts, three-ingredient format makes it accessible to even the most novice home bartender.

11 Negroni Variations

The recipe for the Negroni is simple — three ingredients stirred together make a complex spirit-forward cocktail. Because its uncomplicated format, it makes it easy to create subtle variations and new favorites.

The Spirit Ratio — The original recipe is one part gin, one part sweet vermouth, and one part Campari.

*Whiskey variation – sub bourbon or rye whiskey for the gin for a Boulevardier
*Mezcal variation – sub mezcal for the gin for a Mezcal Negroni
*Rum variation – sub Jamaican rum for gin for a Kingston Negroni

The Garnish — The classic Negroni garnish is an orange peel.

The Preparation — The drink is always stirred until chilled, then strained into an Old Fashioned cocktail glass full of large ice cubes.

1. Negroni

Negroni Cocktail With Gin Sweet Vermouth And Campari
Photo by @sophisid

Few cocktails can live up to the simplicity and complexity of the original. Combining equal parts gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari creates the sophisticated Italian aperitivi that’s withstood the test of time.

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2. Mezcal Negroni

Mezcal Negroni Cocktail With Mezcal Campari Amaro And Sweet Vermouth
Photo by @allanbenjaminfrancis

Changing just one ingredient in the original recipe creates an entirely different cocktail. The Mezcal Negroni uses the smoky agave spirit instead of gin while staying true to the equal-parts formula. The result is a smoky, bittersweet expression that’s taken the cocktail world by storm.

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3. Boulevardier

Boulevardier Cocktail With Bourbon Whiskey Sweet Vermouth And Campari Bitter Amaro
Photo by @Bhofack2

The Boulevardier is an iconic cocktail and one of the original riffs. Using bourbon or rye instead of gin rounds out the bitterness of the cocktail and warms your palate. The recipe was first published in 1927.

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4. White Negroni

White Negroni Gin Suze Lilet Blanc Cocktail
Photo by @cceee

With a few substitutions, the White Negroni keeps the essence of the original — it’s bracingly bitter —  but is also light and floral. Made with gin, Suze gentian liqueur, and Lillet Blanc. It was Created in 2001 by a British bartender in France and has become a modern classic in its own rite with variations of its own.

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5. Negroni Sbagliato

Negroni Sbagliato With Sparkling Wine Campari And Sweet Vermouth
Photo by @Bhofack2

Literally translated, Negroni Sbagliato means “mistaken” Negroni. The story goes that a bartender in Milan picked up a bottle of prosecco instead of gin by mistake. The result doesn’t taste like an accident — made with Campari, sweet vermouth, and sparkling wine. The result is a lighter effervescent spritz take on the original. 

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6. Americano

Americano Red Campari Amaro Red Sweet Vermouth Soda Water Iced Cocktail
Photo by @Bhofack2

The parent of the Negroni was an Italian favorite in the 1900s. The Americano is a refreshing low-proof cocktail made with equal parts Campari, sweet vermouth, and soda water that will immediately feel like you’re basking in the Mediterranean.

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7. Spicy Negroni

Spicy Negroni Cocktail
Photo by @Ryzhkov

It was only a matter of time before the Negroni got the heat treatment. This riffs builds off a smoky mezcal base, adds chile liqueur and habañero bitters for a kick, and gets mixed with the familiar Campari and sweet vermouth. Its a spicy cocktail that maintains complexity and plenty of flavor.

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8. Frozen Negroni

Frozen Negroni Cocktail
Photo by @bhofack2

The frozen Negroni is a riff you can comfortably drink all summer long. Swapping the Campari for Aperol, adding grapefruit bitters, keeping the sweet vermouth, adding a higher ratio of gin, and blending it all together with ice creates a delightfully sophisticated frozen cocktail.

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9. Kingston Negroni

Kingston Negroni Cocktail
Photo by @Taras Shpargala

Less is more when it comes to ingredients in the Kingston Negroni. Keeping the original’s equal-parts formula, it swaps the gin for a funky Jamaican rum and tapers it with unapologetic sweet vermouth and the classic bitter Campari results in a uniquely complex sipper.

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10. Endless Summer

Endless Summer Cocktail Gin Pineapple Juice Campari Sweet Vermouth
Photo by @Bhofack2

The Endless Summer cocktail, a delightful concoction comprising gin, Campari, sweet vermouth, and pineapple juice, presents a tropical rendition of the iconic Negroni. Imagine it as a Negroni taking a well-deserved vacation, offering an alluring blend of luscious sweetness, tantalizing bitterness, and vibrant fruity notes. It’s an absolute must-try for those seeking a refreshing and exotic libation.

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11. Wrapped in Rye

Wrapped In Rye
Photo by @theshakencocktail

The Wrapped in Rye presents a delightful variation of the timeless Negroni by incorporating rye whiskey instead of gin, complemented by Campari, sweet vermouth, and the subtly herbaceous Cynar. Its distinguishing feature lies in the fact that this heated blend is served warm, delivering a soothing protection against the cold of winter.

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