The Classic Negroni: A Symphony in a Glass

The Negroni. Beauty in simplicity.  One of the few cocktails that is at home being held in the hand of stunning Italian fashionista during a post-show party or by a gruff tattoo-laden sous-chef sipping a post-shift drink.  And everyone in between. 


The Negroni is a drink that can be executed by literally anyone, from your airport bartender who couldn’t care less about the liquids being put in the glass, or by the late great Gary “Gaz” Reagan, an absolute cocktail titan who helped popularize the Negroni by stirring the concoction with his index finger.  You heard me right.  He stirred with his finger. 

Gaz put it perfectly when he stated “The three ingredients in a Negroni are all so complex, all layered with lots of botanicals, and yet each one seems to always allow the other two ingredients shine through.  The Negroni is like a symphony in a glass, and every instrument is in tune.”  The cocktail creator is the composer, and the gin, sweet vermouth, Campari, ice, and citrus peel are the instruments. 

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classic negroni

Gaz’s finger would the be sixth instrument in his case (I can only imagine what flavor it would impart…).  It’s a scenario where the cocktail is greater than the sum of its parts.  All of the ingredients are perfectly brilliant by themselves, but when you combine them all into a glass, it transcends into cocktail superstardom.  From individual Power Rangers to a Might Morphin Megazord. From carbon to a diamond.  From a soloist to a majestic symphony that stands the test of time.

As transcending as the Negroni is, it’s not for everyone at first.  The cocktail has a devilish side to it.  It has a bracing bitterness, but don’t let that deter you.  When I first started bartending, bitter flavors hadn’t grown on me yet. I have now spent a metric ton of time around bitter ingredients and can confidently say that I love bitter ingredients.  The Negroni falls firmly into one of my top five favorite cocktails of all time. 

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campari drinks

The bitter sweetness of the Campari is tamed by the dry, juniper forward gin.  Both the gin and Campari are rounded out by the smooth, herbal sweet vermouth.  The gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth all have a citrus component that binds them together. What you are left with is a layer, complex cocktail that is uniquely a Negroni.

  • 1 oz Gin – I prefer a London dry such as Beefeater, a great bang for your buck gin.
  • 1 oz Sweet Vermouth – Cocchi di Torni is my favorite bang for your buck sweet vermouth
  • 1 oz Campari
  • Ice
  • Citrus peel

Take a rocks glass and add ice.  A single, large ice cube is preferable.  Add ingredients and stir in the rocks glass.  Stir for 10 seconds if you have regular ice.  20-30 seconds if you have a single, large cube.  Peel a strip of citrus, preferably an orange, and squeeze the oils over the top of your cocktail.  Twist the peel and place overtop of your Negroni.  Enjoy!

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A huge thanks to Deke Dunne for today’s post.  For more drink content, make sure to give him a follow on instagram and check out the following for more:  5 Must Try Fall Cocktail Recipes, The Best To-Go Cocktails in the DMV Area, and Smells like Whiskey Spirit.


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