Made of equal parts Campari, sweet vermouth, and gin, the classic Negroni is so delicious Ernest Hemingway named one of his nine dogs down in Havana after it.
The cocktail can be traced back to Florence, Italy in 1919. According to reliable lore, the cocktail was born when an Italian bartender responded to a customer's demand for a stiffer riff on an Americano cocktail (a much-tamer mix of Campari, sweet vermouth, and club soda). The patron, Count Camillo Negroni, had picked up a taste for strong liquor while working—true story—as a rodeo clown in the American Wild West, and gave his name to the resulting concoction.
Although perfect as is, the Negroni is a mixologist’s favorite way to play, with ingredients swapped for everything from mezcal to sparkling wine. Here are three of our favorite adaptations.
Swap out the gin in a Negroni for American whiskey and you get the delicious Boulevardier. It’s equally complex as its gin-based predecessor, but the whiskey adds a touch of warmth. Named after Erskine Gwynne, an American writer who founded a monthly magazine in Paris called Boulevardier, which appeared from 1927 to 1932.
2. NEGRONI SBAGLIATO
This bubbly Negroni variation, whose name means “bungled,” was invented at Bar Basso in Milan in 1968 when a bartender accidentally put sparkling wine into the drink instead of gin. It is an excellent choice for a brunch cocktail.
3. SMOKY NEGRONI (also called a Mezcal Negroni)
The Italian classic gets a Mexican makeover. Substituting mezcal for gin adds a smoky note to the cocktail while maintaining its simplicity. Choosing a blanca mezcal allows the vermouth and orange zest to shine without overpowering the drink.