In praise of the Negroni

Two Negronis and a few nibbles - simply heaven!

Oh how I love a good Negroni!

If you’ve never tasted this classic Italian cocktail, you’re in for a treat. A good Negroni represents the perfect combination of strength, sweetness and bitterness and comes in a fabulous deep red, with a chunk of orange on the side. As an aperitif, it has so much going for it. It’s fresh and sharp enough to enjoy al fresco on a hot summer evening, before a casual dinner of roast chicken salad, but it’s also rich enough to serve in the autumn before a more formal affair with multiple courses and a flight of fine wines. Believe me: I’ve done both, and several stages in between!

The Negroni is bitter. It’s a drink for adults who have out-grown the need for everything to taste like pop; a proper, grown-up cocktail. The bitterness comes from two directions: first, the Campari, a favourite aperitif drink of mine that is flavoured of gentian root; secondly, the vermouth, deep and herbal. Add to that heady mix a shot of gin and you’re bound for aperitif paradise.

You may have seen cocktail waiters shaking gin and Campari together and straining them into a Windsor martini glass. You’re drinking in the wrong bars. A true, Italian Negroni is served in a heavy-bottomed tumbler and is always constructed in the glass over ice. There’s something quite manly about it, I think. Its advantage for us aperitif-hosts is the simplicity of its recipe. It’s all equal quantities, so you can mix them in front of your guests with all the flourish and confidence of an Italian waiter and never have to worry about measuring.

Ideal foods to serve with a Negroni are, of course Italian. How about putting together a sharing board of sliced ham or salami, small cubes of smoked provolone or scamorza cheese, olives and grilled artichokes in oil? More adventurous hosts could try making their own bruschetta, served warm and topped with tapenade or finely chopped tomato flesh with a little basil.

How to make the perfect Negroni

(per serving)
Half-fill a heavy tumbler with ice cubes and add:
20ml (or whatever convenient measure you have) of gin
20ml of red vermouth
20ml of Campari

Stir steadily for about half a minute, lifting the ice cubes through the drink, rather than just whirling them around.

Garnish with half a slice of orange.

Next time: a little experiment with vermouths


  1. Love this, especially 'whatever convenient measure' of gin. Far more appealing than boring old mls or fl ounces!

    1. Thanks, E.M. A tablespoon will do. I have learnt to my cost that a perfectly innocent-looking 30ml jigger turns into a lethal weapon when you use it to measure 3 doses of spirit! I have a 20ml measure that I use these days. It means I can have a second drink and retain my appetite.

      Look out for my post on Martinis in a few weeks for more advice on measuring spirit without killing your guests.


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