Equal parts gin, vermouth, and Campari, the classic Negroni is a reliable staple at any bar. Trouble is, that basic ratio doesn’t do each of the components the greatest justice, and quite frankly, it’s one of the last cocktails I would choose in any lineup.
For years, I thought that gin was the culprit. Served neat, it tastes like a liquefied Christmas tree. All juniper and pine, that resinous taste leaves a film of holiday despair in my mouth that won’t wash away. Some brands are certainly better than others, but it turns out that simply knowing the right way to mix it can do wonders.
How To Improve On A Classic Negroni
If you have similar feelings, let me tell you a little secret: Cut the vermouth with a sweet vinegar like white balsamic to diffuse some of the bitterness. It simultaneously adds a bright hit of acidic contrast for a fully realized, harmonious balance of tastes. The first time I experienced this alchemy was at Neighborhood Goods, a curious mashup of retail and restaurant. They used a fanciful Vermouth Vinegar which was quite luxurious indeed, and lit the spark to experiment with more accessible acids.
Other Vinegar Options
Vinegars are abundant these days, offering a diverse world of flavoring options that go well beyond salad dressing. If you want to experiment beyond white balsamic, other promising substitutes include:
- Sherry vinegar
- Champagne vinegar
- Coconut vinegar
Infused vinegars pose even greater options for customization; I’ve had amazing peach-infused vinegar that incorporated the bright, sunny essence of a summer day, and raspberry-infused vinegar with a brilliant tart-sweet interplay.
Want a sweeter, smoother drink?
Lean in on the citrus element and replace the vinegar with orange juice instead!
Shaken Or Stirred?
One other secret that applies well beyond Negronis: A drink that’s mostly or entirely composed of spirits like this should always be stirred, not shaken. It more effectively incorporates the ingredients without becoming diluted by the ice. Stir with a long spoon for 20 – 30 seconds, and that’s it. Serve with fresh ice for the best clarity and temperature.
The classic Negroni cocktail has been around for roughly 100 years, and it’s only getting started.