An iconic cocktail consisting of equal parts gin, Campari, and vermouth, the Negroni has exploded in popularity in the past decade, earning itself the title of World’s Most Popular Cocktail for the second time in a row in 2022. With such a basic composition, the Negroni lends itself to be easily riffed upon, with pro mixologists and novices alike able to effortlessly swap out gin for spirits like mezcal or rum for entirely new flavors that still stay true to the cocktail’s beloved bitter profile.
Whether it’s a shaken concoction a la Stanley Tucci or a Negroni, Sbagliato, with Prosecco in it à la Emma D’Arcy, there’s truly a Negroni variation for everyone. To get a little inspiration for the next Negroni cocktail we should try, we asked 15 bartenders from around the world to share their favorites. Here’s what they said.
The best Negroni variations, according to bartenders:
- The Negroni Bianco
- The Limoncello Negroni
- The Boulevardier
- The Oaxacan Negroni
- The Peach Negroni
- More booze and more bitter
- The Tropical Negroni
- The Nightshade Negroni
- The Mezcal Negroni
- The Pandan Negroni
- The Kissa Tanto
- The Sotol Negroni
- The Chamomile Negroni
- The Coffee Negroni
- The Tom Cat Negroni
“My favorite Negroni is a Negroni Bianco, which is a White Negroni. It’s made with dry gin, bitter bianco liqueur, and bianco vermouth. I love it because it’s slightly less bitter than the traditional, but still maintains the bittersweet quality that everyone adores about Negronis.” —Tina Heschke, bar manager, Wolfie’s Carousel Bar, San Diego
“The Limoncello Negroni is a lighter, citrusy take on the classic Negroni and offers bright, vibrant flavors with a touch of sweetness, letting the Limoncello really shine through.” —Stefano Briganti, bartender, Il Giardino Bar at Hotel Eden, Rome, Italy
“The Boulevardier, which is made up of equal parts bourbon, Campari, and sweet vermouth. I thoroughly enjoy Negronis, but I enjoy more tasting with a different style of whiskey. Replace the gin with bourbon or rye whiskey. I prefer to use Angel’s Envy Rye, but if that’s slightly out of the price range use Basil Hayden’s Reserve Caribbean Cask; it’s a great whiskey as well. Both are aged in Caribbean rum casks, which add a nice sweetness from the molasses of the barrels to add to the sweet vermouth, plus a hint of vanilla along with the rye meshing with the herbal flavors of the Campari.” —Deon Togami, beverage director, Prince Waikiki, Honolulu
“At Paradisaea, we offer a Oaxacan Negroni, which calls for Tamarindo Mezcal, rosé vermouth, and a caramel-colored bitter liqueur that rivals Campari. I love our Oaxacan Negroni because it’s chock full of flavors. The tamarindo and five chili mezcal steal the show, but play well with rosé vermouth and bitter liqueur. We also sneak in ancestral Mexican corn liqueur for good measure. It’s smoky, slightly bitter, and slightly sweet.” —Audrey Angui, bartender, Paradisaea, San Diego
“The Peach Negroni is perfect for those looking to add a touch of sweetness to their typical Negroni. The fruity flavor of the peach and grapefruit bring a rich sweetness and texture to an otherwise bitter cocktail, allowing the drink to be balanced and refreshing.” —Kyle Bobkowski, beverage manager, Percheron at Crossroads Hotel, Kansas City, Mo.
“My favorite Negroni variation is geared around altering the classic Negroni specs to make for a more spirit-forward and more bitter cocktail. I’m a sucker for a big-tasting and bitter cocktail. I arrive at this beautiful bitter place by subbing in Punt y Mes for the Italian vermouth, by subbing a drier and more herbal bitter for Campari (Bordiga), and by altering the specs to the classic Boulevardier specs. I rotate my base spirit depending on my mood, what I’m eating, time of day, and time of year. My old standbys are overproof Jamaican rum (à la Kingston Negroni), mezcal, or a big rye.” —Brandon Ristaino, co-founder and beverage director, Good Lion Hospitality, Santa Barbara, Calif.
“In this version of the Negroni, we wanted to create something refreshing and original. To make the Tropical Negroni, we used a clearer and bitter vermouth to substitute the original sweet vermouth, mezcal over gin as a smoky component to elevate these notes, Campari to keep the bitterness, and we added some tiki bitters to have a final kick on the palate.” —Simon Sebbah, beverage director, Grand Tour Hospitality, New York
“The Nightshade Negroni is a Negroni that we created to represent the spirit of aperitif as a culture with the terroir of Bali. In this case, we use local ingredient tamarillo. Tamarillo is a plant of the nightshade family, which is where the name came from. We infused gin with tamarillo to extract its unique flavor before mixing with Cocchi Rosa, Campari, and lactic strawberry.” —Panji Wisrawan, head mixologist, Aperitif Bar at Viceroy Bali, Bali, Indonesia
“A Mezcal-based Negroni. It’s subtly smoky and well balanced with the Campari herbal notes. Being Italian, I have been drinking Negronis my entire adult life. I think it’s a perfect twist on the classic with the subtle smoky nuances of the mezcal, added third layer to the sweetness of the vermouth, and the herbal notes of the Campari.” —Monia Tonazzo, general manager, Sally’s Fish House & Bar, San Diego
“The Pandan Negroni is a great way to create an interesting riff on the classic Negroni using tequila but also without too much preparation involved. The pandan really shines with the reposado and makes this crushable.” —Liana Oster, bar director, Side Hustle at NoMad London, London, England
“The Kissa Tanto is part of our “Tradition, Meet Tomorrow” cocktail menu in the Parlor at The Dead Rabbit. It’s a twist on a White Negroni that plays on the flavors of fresh passion fruit and carrot seeds. With the inspiration of Japanese highballs and Italian aperitivos, this cocktail plays on the different drinking cultures found in both countries and is named after an iconic restaurant in Vancouver where they serve up such dishes. Topping up the Kissa Tanto with East Imperial Yuzu Tonic Water is a staff favorite.” —Giancarlo Quiroz Jesus, bartender, The Dead Rabbit, New York
“A Sotol Negroni consisting of Sotomayor Sotol, Carpano Antica formula, Bordiga Aperitivo, and black truffle dust. A Negroni is one of my favorite aperitifs and combined with sotol, which has similar characteristics of gin with a smoky flavor, this makes for a truly unique and delicious cocktail.” —Silvio Pedrocchi, food and beverage manager, The Steward, Santa Barbara, Calif.
“Our version of the Negroni is made with Campari, which is cold-infused sous-vide for 72 hours with Roman camomile flowers grown in our own gardens. This bitter variety of chamomile tempers the Campari without compromising its renowned bitterness. Compared with a classic Negroni, our version adds a “Provençal” touch, which is more powerful and longer on the palate.” —Emanuele Balestra, bar director, Bar du Fouquet’s at Hôtel Barrière Le Majestic Cannes, Cannes, France
“A Coffee Negroni with Plymouth Gin, NOLA coffee liqueur, sweet vermouth, Campari, and chocolate bitters. I love the Chocolate Negroni because it takes a classic cocktail and makes it a bit more approachable for the general public. The addition of coffee and the slight reduction of Campari results in a Negroni that is so easy to drink. I love gin and I love coffee — what a combo!” —Adam Enright Hollick, bartender, The Front Yard at The Garland, Los Angeles
“My favorite Negroni variation is the Tom Cat Negroni. As a big fan of both the classic Negroni and its lesser-known, bourbon-tinged cousin, the Boulevardier, sometimes I struggle deciding between the two. The Tom Cat Negroni walks the line between the two beautifully. Tom Cat Gin is aged in new American oak barrels, similar to a bourbon, so it has all the warming oak spice of a whiskey along with the bright botanicals of a gin. It offers the best of both worlds and makes an incredibly complex and nuanced Negroni.” —Nathan Canan-Zucker, bartender, Gin Lane Bar, Montpelier, Vt.