How the Negroni Went from Bartender's Darling to Everyone's Favorite Classic Cocktail
It's Negroni Week, which means bars and restaurants around the world are celebrating the bracingly bittersweet aperitif. Fifteen years ago, the idea of dedicating a spot on a cocktail menu—let alone an entire week—to a Negroni would have been unheard of. It's bitter! It's medicinal! Whoever would drink such a thing? It turns out, a lot of people.
About five years ago, the uniquely flavored, potently boozy cocktail caught on and caught fire, skyrocketing quickly from a bartender favorite to a must-have item on any reputable menu. The avocado or bacon of the cocktail world, the Negroni has outlasted other cocktail trends and remains a mainstay in the drinking world. It's joined the ranks of classic cocktail stalwarts like the martini, the Manhattan and the old-fashioned. So what gives the Negroni its staying power? Bartender Natasha David of New York City's Nitecap has some theories. Here, David, who grew up sipping Campari in Italy and Germany from a young age ("I have Campari in my veins," she says), outlines exactly what makes the Negroni so darn great and why it's managed to outlast the trends.
"You've got all the herbaceous qualities of gin, the bitterness of Campari and the sweetness of the vermouth," David says. "All of the components are fighting with each other because they're all very pronounced flavors—but they all balance out. It's pretty much everything that your cocktail dreams are made of."
"They're good in the winter, and they're good in the summer—plus Negronis taste good in so many different proportions," she says. "I personally like one and a half ounces of gin and then three-fourths of an ounce of sweet vermouth and Campari. But it depends on the gin. If I'm using citrusy Plymouth, I might use more of it to bring its flavors to the front." David recommends playing around with different vermouth, gins and proportions to find your ideal cocktail. "Explore," she says.
"Classic cocktails have such a history around them," she says. "I think story is very important. There are many stories of how the Negroni started, and every single one is very romantic. I think that is very appealing."
"We're always trying to overcomplicate everything," David says. "We're putting millions of sauces and components in every dish, and every cocktail needs an infusion and a special syrup and a fruit that is only available for a short time and is grown in some little farm. I feel like the palate craves simplicity. I think that's why Manhattans, martinis, old-fashioneds and now Negronis are such standbys—they're just simple and incredibly well balanced. It's a combination that you can't really go wrong with."