Negronis are classic Italian aperitifs. Drank before a meal, aperitifs are intended to stimulate your appetite and get you ready for dinner. When we visited Italy I never really got into negronis, mostly because when I could never drag myself away from the amazing wine selection. It didn’t help that Campari, the key ingredient in a negroni, smells a little like cough syrup when not balanced well in a cocktail.
Since moving to Oklahoma I’ve taken total advantage of my friend Rachael’s ridiculous knowledge level of cocktails. She’s taught this wine-loving girl how to love a bunch of different mixed drinks, the first of which were negronis!
So when I asked her to come over and spend an evening teaching me to make the perfect Negroni, she offered one better: experimenting with negroni variations! We had a blast trying everything, and today I want to share the fruits of our taste test with you.
- 1 part Campari
- 1 part sweet Vermouth
- 1 part gin (we used New Amsterdam)
Mix all three ingredients together. Recipes vary on the amount, but aim for 1-1 1/2 ounces of each ingredient. Add an orange wheel and serve over ice!
Top with lemon La Croix: an uncomplicated addition that cuts the campari a bit further. I liked this, but it’s not my favorite. Scored somewhere in the middle.
Top with Aranciata San Pellegrino: the deep-but-not-sweet citrus flavor somehow compliments the vermouth/campari combination.
Substitute blood orange beer: continuing the citrus theme, we substituted blood orange beer from Revolver Brewery** in to replace the vermouth. The result is truly different than any of the others, with a bit deeper flavor that also feels closer to something good for a beach day than any of the other combinations.
Substitute Truly spiked orange: I just discovered Truly this summer and I love it. After the beer’s success above, we swapped in Truly spiked orange for vermouth. It lessened the alcohol content and makes it a little less intense.
Sbagliato: a variation with an actual name, sbagliato means “mistaken” in Italian. The story goes that a harried bartender accidentally added sparkling wine instead of gin to a negroni, creating the sbagliato.
Boulevardier: gin not your thing? Replace it with bourbon!
Rachael’s version: double the gin and top with Aranciata San Pellegrino. Somehow I loved the gin’s effect on the Campari – evened it out without losing its distinctness.
My favorites were similar to each other: Rachel’s version remains my preference, because the gin and aranciata complement the Campari without trying to outstrip its flavor. Definitely the best of the bunch.
Second place goes to the Truly version. I really liked the blood orange effect on negronis, and the fact that Truly isn’t sweet made the whole thing even better!
Honorable mention? The beer substitution surprised me and took the drink a new direction. I would definitely drink it again.
Least favorite was the boulevardier. The syrupy intensity of the Campari didn’t play well with the bourbon for me. Rachael felt the same way and she’s not a wuss like me when it comes to drinking whiskey and bourbon. Logan liked it this one the best, though, but I think that’s because Negroni didn’t really appeal to him in the first place. Ha.
Surprisingly, I also didn’t love the sbagliato. If I’d have guessed based on description alone, I’d have thought I would jump at anything with sparkling wine. But somehow they didn’t meld well for me. Maybe with a different sparkling wine?
Thanks Rachael for a fun experiment, and being a champ bartender!!
What’s your favorite cocktail to tinker with? Let me know in the comments below and we’ll feature it!
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