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Drink · June 3, 2015

Served Neat: The Legendary Cocktail You Aren't Drinking Nearly Enough

Every great recipe has an origin story to match, and the Negroni is no exception. The cocktail gets its name from Count Camillo Negroni, a noted Italian libertine who, in 1919, decided that his Americano (Campari, vermouth, and soda water) was a little lacking in "oomph." He kindly asked his bartender to replace the soda with gin, and a new breed of cocktail was born. If that's everything you knew about the Negroni, you'd know that it came to party.

However, there's more to this concoction than a healthy ABV. In the pantheon of cocktails, it stands out for its utter purity: Unlike the Old Fashioned or the Gin Martini, there's little-to-no debate over its contents and preparation. In fact, over the Negroni's nearly 100 years of existence, its recipe hasn't changed at all. But why?

The answer lies in the recipe itself. Consider: Most traditional cocktails (and indeed, most cocktails worth drinking) are built around a single base spiritwhiskey, gin, tequila, etc. From there, ingredients are added to enhance the liquor's flavor, and they do so in a variety of ways. Some cocktails, like the Martini or Manhattan, use vermouth to soften the liquor and bring out its more subtle flavors. Others, like the Old Fashioned or Sazerac, use cocktail bitters to add depth and complexity.

The Negroni, to its credit, manages to do both, combining the bitter, herbaceous flavor of Campari with the smoothness of vermouth. Add the final orange rind, and the result is a unique bouquet: citrus, herbal, and floral notes all suspended in perfect balance.

So, interested in trying your hand at a classic? Here's how to do it right:


1 oz. good gin (we recommend North Shore Distillery)

1 oz. Campari

1 oz. sweet vermouth

1 slice orange rind

Stir all ingredients in a cocktail mixing glass, then serve in an Old Fashioned glass over ice. If you're thinking of using a shaker, consider this quote from the New York Times' Toby Cecchini:

"There are only two drinks I insist not be shaken, the manhattan and the Negroni. The bubbles and ice shards that give zest to some cocktails would mar the Negroni's sanguine limpidity. That first sip should be like drinking from a cool brook that happened to perambulate past a spice bazaar on its route."


Nathaniel Nagy

Copywriter, cold brew advocate, purveyor of handcrafted birthday haikus since 2009.