There are three types of people: (1) people who don’t drink; (2) people who like negronis; (3) people who will soon like negronis. If you’re in the first or second camp, you’re doing just fine. This post is mostly aimed at people in the third camp, a transitory state that one might mistake as permanent.

A classic negroni is equal parts gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth. The tried-and-true strategy to warm up to them is just to have more, but it won’t be fun for your first several. Campari is way too bitter for an unfamiliar palate, and if you’re going to be consuming poison ethanol, every sip better be delicious1. There’s a quicker route to enjoying negronis, not unlike the strategy one would follow to lift more weight: progressive overload. Take baby steps towards its polarizing flavor profile, and it’ll seem much more approachable once you get there.

Here’s a suggested ordering:

  1. Aperol Spritz – stir over ice: 3 parts prosecco, 2 parts aperol, 1 part soda.
  2. Paper Plane – shake with ice: equal parts bourbon, aperol, amaro Nonino or amaro Meletti, and lemon juice.
  3. Aperol Boulevardier – stir over large ice: 4 parts rye or bourbon, 2 parts aperol, 3 parts sweet vermouth2.
  4. Negroni Sour – dry shake without ice: 2 parts gin/Campari/sweet vermouth, 1 part lemon juice, 1 part egg white, 2 dashes orange bitters. Then wet shake with ice, and garnish with drops of orange flower water or rose water.
  5. Negroni – stir over large ice: equal parts gin, Campari, sweet vermouth.

There are also a few bits of technique that, surprisingly, can significantly affect your results. The biggest one is pre-stirring before adding to your serving glass. It may seem like there’s no point dirtying a separate mixing vessel, but the dilution and chilling goes a long way towards producing a widely palatable result. Try giving the ingredients a good stir over ice for at least 20 seconds (if you don’t have a barspoon, a chopstick works well), and then strain into your serving glass over a large ice cube. (The large ice cube melts slower, so you can sip slowly without fear of over-dilution.) The other critical component is the garnish: an orange peel goes a really long way in taking Campari out of acrid territory and into the bright, citrusy regime. (Watch a couple videos if you’re not quite sure how to express the citrus oils, as this also makes a big difference.)

Once you’re on board, there’s much room for further customization. For example, the choices of gin and sweet vermouth present a very wide design space. Regarding gins: If you want something simple and classic, Beefeater is a good choice. If you want even more bitterness/nuttiness, try Bombay Sapphire. For less juniper and more lemony citrus, go for Plymouth. Regarding vermouths: Cocchi di Torino is my personal favorite, with a deep, rich, sweetness and strong vanilla & cola notes. Dolin is more herbal; I smell a lot of thyme in it. Punt e Mes is somewhere in between a vermouth and an amaro, so it’ll take your drink further into bitter territory. Next, the equal parts ratio should just be taken as a starting point. I find it to be too sweet, and prefer something closer to 2 : 1.25 : 1.25 (usually 40ml : 25ml : 25ml). More generally, you should view the template of roughly equal parts spirit-amaro-vermouth as a flexible template where a lot of great drinks happen.

  1. At least, this is the way I cope with the sad reality of how bad alcohol is for you. 

  2. Equal parts is also fine, but I find it to be too sweet. 

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