One of the benefits to knowing your classic cocktails is being able to pinpoint precisely what your taste buds are craving. Whether it’s an exact wetness to your Martini, the difference between a Chicago Fizz to a Japanese Fizz or the lime to sugar ratio in your Daiquiri, a certain cocktail at the very moment you begin to crave it will taste like the best drink of your life.
A drink as versatile, with elements puckering-ly bitter and syrupy sweet, as a Negroni, is one of those drinks that needs a little modification depending on how you feel.
The classic Negroni will give you equal parts gin, Campari and sweet vermouth but if the mood strikes you for a slightly sweeter version, an earthier bitterness or even a different base spirit here are seven twists to satisfy even the strangest of Negroni-like cravings.
This much-loved twist (invented by London bartender Wayne Collins) replaces Campari with Suze and sweet vermouth with Lillet Blanc, rendering the usually shocking red drink a pale, champagne-like colour.
On the palate you’re still getting astringent bitterness from the Suze but it’s certainly not as bold and in your face as Campari, neither does it have a huge zippy orange note – the citrus in Suze is far gentler. Instead there’s a lovely musky, earthiness along with a subtle spice. Complimenting these notes you have the delightfully floral Lillet Blanc which adds the necessary sweetness and yet keeps things fragrant and herbaceous. All in all, if you’re feeling like a bitter gin drink but looking for less of a smack around the head and more of a gentler tap, the White Negroni is an excellent twist.
Debating between a Negroni and a Manhattan? The Boulevardier will serve all your bitter whiskey needs. This spirit-heavy Negroni twist sees the gin replaced by bourbon and also calls for a ratio change of one and half measures of bourbon to one measure of Campari and one of sweet vermouth.
It’s punchy, less herbaceous and has a deeper complexity, it’s also a wonderfully bitter pick-me-up for bourbon fans.
(A Mezcal Negroni is another excellent simple spirit swap on the classic for agave fans)
Aperol is itself a bitter aperitif but it’s comparatively a child when it comes to the mouth-puckering tartness of Campari. If you self-identify as a sweet tooth then this is the Negroni for you. Simply replace the Campari for Aperol and you’ll find a much lighter, less bitter cocktail in your hands.
Even if you are a fan of the classic, this modified version can be a great alternative when you’re craving something easier to drink. Of course you don’t have to completely take away Campari – a Negroni tastes wonderful with a 50/50 mix of Campari and Aperol which lowers the bitterness ever so gently.
A truly outstanding invention, which was allegedly created in error, this twist replaces the gin for prosecco. In Italian sbagliato means mistaken or mistake and the story goes that the fizzy wine was picked up instead of a gin bottle when making the classic cocktail. We think perhaps the bartender just told his boss that so he could enjoy a fizzy Negroni on the side (oops, what a mistake, I guess I’ll have to drink it), and we’re certainly not judging.
However it came about, the Negroni Sbagliato is a tasty low-alcohol twist which adds a pleasant effervescence while maintaining the trademark flavours of astringency and sweetness. On certain days this cocktail can rival the gin version, and on even better days it beats it by a mile.
(As an additional twist you can always turn a White Negroni into a White Negroni Sbagliato)
Bitter Vermouth Negroni
You can play around with the sweet vermouth element in a Negroni until you’ve exhausted every Italian fortified wine the country has to offer. You may need several days to do it however. Just by using something like Antica Formula you’ll discover an additional vanilla aroma among all that red berry action. However if you love your drinks as bitter as possible then a vermouth like Punt E Mes will tart up a Negroni to full strength.
Punt E Mes, which translates as a point and a half, is named after it being two thirds sweet and one part bitter. It’ll still add that necessary sweetness but will infuse plenty of astringent notes to this already sharp cocktail. Not for the faint of palate.
For some reason a sloe gin Negroni feels like a guilty pleasure, perhaps due to its increased richness and sweetness. Whether its guilty or not, it certainly is a very tasty twist.
A Sloe Negroni presents two options, you can either go for all sloe gin or you can do a mix with classic London dry gin to tone down the sloe berry element. We’d always recommend trying both (drinking in the name of research is obviously a very arduous task) and going from there. In this take on the classic Sipsmith Sloe Gin and Plymouth Sloe Gin are both excellent choices for the base spirit.
White Negroni Daiquiri
You can thank our friends at Australian Bartender for unearthing this out-there cocktail which, as the name suggests, collides the classic rum Daiquiri with a White Negroni.
Invented at the Lobo Plantation in Sydney by Mary White, this drink isn’t exactly a classic so we don’t recommend swaggering up to a bar and trying to order one. However, if you’re able to get chatting with the bartender and they’re up for trying something slightly unusual here’s the spec they’ll need: 30ml white rum, 15ml Suze, 15ml Lillet Blanc, 30ml fresh lemon juice, 10ml sugar syrup, 3 dashes orange bitters.
This is all shaken over ice, strained into a coupette and served with a lemon twist. Australian Bartender says the rum replaces the Negroni’s gin, lemon the Daiquiri’s lime and the Suze provides an earthy spine running throughout the drink, finally being tied together by the orange bitters. It’s actually a sharp, yet floral cocktail which, somewhat incredulously, works.