While the Negroni has long been a classic cocktail, this Italian drink is coming back in style with full force. Any cocktail bar worth its salt has the ingredients in stock to whip you up a Negroni. The components are simple (gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth), but the outcome is far from basic. For all of its simplicity, the Negroni is a complex drink, at once sweet, bitter, and wholly satisfying.
No matter how you roll the dice, Campari is Campari. As for vermouth, Martini & Rossi is one widely available brand, while Carpano Antica Formula and Cocchi Americano make for great vermouth substitutes (the former being much sweeter than the latter). But what about the gin? Which gins are suitable for for the distinct, romantic Negroni? The trick is to find a gin that amplifies the aspect of the drink you’re craving. Do you want a Negroni that taps into your inner sweet tooth, or something that’s more herbal? Either way, you’ll get what you’re searching for on this list.
1. Tanqueray No. 10
If you’re into Tanqueray, you’ve probably tried their original gin, i.e. Tanqueray London Dry. This is a completely different gin. It’s far softer, sweeter, and more floral than Tanq London Dry, which is chock full of juniper flavor. If you want a Negroni that elevates the delicate garden undertones of Campari without bringing out the herbaceous aspects, Tanqueray 10 is a good choice. It’s a subtle, easily accessible gin that won’t leave you second guessing what’s in your drink. There’s a nice burst of citrus in there, too – a great complement to that orange peel garnish.
2. Boodles British Gin
In case you missed it, Boodles is a super British – self dubbed “proper” – gin. Made without citrus, Boodles is as piney and traditional as Tanqueray No. 10 is not. This is a London Dry Gin, so expect plenty of juniper. If you want a traditional, stark Negroni, Boodles is an excellent pick. It has some earthy qualities that can be easily attributed to the gin’s spicy botanicals, which include nutmeg and rosemary. Another fun fact: Boodles was named after a gentleman’s club that Winston Churchill liked to frequent.
3. Aviation Gin
Although Aviation calls itself a London Dry Gin, it’s defies that category in expression, exhibiting plenty of fragrance and a touch of sugar. For those who don’t know, the Aviation cocktail is typically made with maraschino liqueur, gin, lemon, and quite often creme de violette. Aviation gin’s mission statement explains that it was named as such as part of a movement to make gin desirable in drinks beyond the martini – such as the Aviation. In this case, Aviation gin accomplishes this by being perfectly mixable for a richer Negroni. Think vanilla with a touch of lavender – one of the botanicals employed in the gin.
4. Gordon’s Gin BEST ON A BUDGET
Back on the traditional train, we have Gordon’s. Gordon’s is an ultra inexpensive (around $14 a bottle), classic gin. If you want a very straightforward Negroni that tastes exactly like what it is, go for Gordon’s. It’s uncomplicated, juniper-forward, and super cheap. When you drink a Gordon’s Negroni, you’ll understand why these ingredients work with each other. There’s enough simplicity in the gin to make you appreciate how juniper and the many botanicals of Campari dance well with one another.
5. Barr Hill Tom Cat BEST OVERALL
As we’ve mentioned in the past, Barr Hill makes a great regular gin that’s optimal for converting gin haters. But another stunning triumph they’ve produced is their barrel-aged “Tom Cat” gin, which is distilled from honey. Interestingly enough, you get a lot of that thick, mouth-coating honey oomph without cloying sugar. Tom Cat is a pretty savory gin, but it still maintains a creamy mouthfeel and nut notes along with some butteriness. This gin will tease out the bitter flavors of the Campari without edging into too much herbaceousness. It’s an A plus gin that will make a full-flavored, full-bodied Negroni.
6. Boxer Gin
Like Aviation, Boxer gin is a London dry style gin that has floral qualities along with some forest spice. It’s a touch less sweeter than Aviation, so if you want some of the flowery characteristics with a bit more of soil-driven touch, Boxer is ideal. The head-turning botanical used is bergamot (not to be confused with bergamot oranges), which provides a crisp, almost tea-like fresh flavor. A Boxer Negroni is perfect for someone who enjoys using herbs or spices in their cocktails, but in a more understated way. Although not widely available, you can order Boxer here.
7. Half Moon Orchard Gin
This is a super interesting gin distilled from wheat and apples. The result is, as you might expect, a fruitier gin. Though the obvious pine quality of the juniper and the grit of the wheat pull away from that, the addition of orange and elderberry really drive the point home: this is truly a gin made straight from the orchard. Campari doesn’t have too much fruit flavor – the sweetness present is more of an herbal one. So if you use Half Moon Orchard gin in your Negroni, an interesting flavor combination is present: you have your fruit and your herbs. It’s off-kilter, but delightful, and highly recommended for those feeling adventurous.