The Negroni is perhaps one of the most iconic embodiments of the color red. This year the classic Italian cocktail celebrates its 100th birthday, purportedly born at the behest of Count Camillo Negroni during a stop at Caffè Casoni in Florence, when he asked for a bolder retelling of the Americano, with gin replacing soda water. Classically mixed in a rocks glass (but often served up in a coupe) with equal parts Campari, gin and sweet vermouth, the ruby-toned cocktail was helped in its recent return to fame by initiatives like Imbibe’s Negroni Week as well as Negroni-adoring bars, such as Dante in New York City.
Co-owned by Naren Young, Dante features a Negroni Sessions menu that spins the classic composition 12 different ways. “We wanted something that was timeless and also fit with our concept and heritage, so taking a deep dive into the Negroni and exploring all the possibilities with this iconic drink made perfect sense for us,” Young says. “At the time—only 4 years ago—the Negroni was still quite niche; it wasn’t a part of pop culture like it is today.”
Served on-tap since opening day, Dante’s house Negroni eschews the traditional uniform proportions and instead mixes 1 part gin to ¾ parts Campari and sweet vermouth. “We use a whisper more gin, as I believe the drink is more balanced this way,” says Young.
At first glance, Young says, the three-ingredient Negroni may not seem ripe for riffing. However, creativity can lead the drink in surprising directions. “We work off a philosophy of overall flavor profile, rather than being total purists,” Young says. “A Negroni should have a base spirit, some sort of bitters (usually red, but not always—we prefer Campari) and vermouth. As long as it’s still bold and bitter, then we’re okay with veering off the traditional path and still calling it a Negroni.”
Make it Your Own
Creative edits to the classic formula can showcase new flavor profiles within the iconic cocktail. “Our secret ingredient with a lot of drinks (including some Negronis) is a little pinch of salt,” he says. “Other than that, you could add other bitters, tinctures, amaro or vinegars/shrubs to your Negroni with often excellent results. Just use a steady hand and tiny proportions. A large, clear piece of ice never hurt anyone either.”
Up and Down
The Negroni is a slow-sipping drink, so many in its Italian homeland (as well as around the world) prefer it served on the rocks, garnished with an orange slice. “I find it to be more sessionable on the rocks,” says Young. But cocktails should be enjoyed the way you like, and many prefer the Negroni served up in a coupe and garnished with an orange twist. Try it both ways to find your favorite.
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