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side view of negroni on a wooden table on a porch with greenery in background and shadow of glass coming towards front

What Does a Negroni Taste Like? + All You Need to Know About the Classic Italian Cocktail

Last updated on November 6th, 2023

Are you looking to dip your toe into the world of bitters? Are you ready to finally get on the Negroni train and see what everyone is talking about? 

The Negroni is one of Italy’s most famous cocktails, it’s one of my personal favorites, and it’s easily replicated at home. 

The ingredients for a Negroni are easy to get, the recipe is full-proof and it’s one of the best cocktails for a crowd because you can make it in big batches and pour over ice whenever you guys run dry.

In this article I will guide you through what a Negroni is, how to pronounce it, the best ingredients to use, how to make one and other ways you can use Campari, one of its ingredients. I will also include a short history, why you should always keep a bottle around, and how best to serve a Negroni!

What Is A Negroni?

side view of negroni on a wooden table on a porch with greenery in background and sunset

A Negroni is an aperitif or cocktail originating in Italy in the 1920’s made from Campari bitters, gin and sweet red vermouth in equal parts. It’s most commonly served in an old-fashioned glass on the rocks.

Good To Know: In Italian, it’s actually not called a Campari Negroni but just referred to as a Negroni. When you ask for a Negroni in Italy, it’s assumed it will be made with Campari and thus, there is no need to call it a Campari Negroni. 

What Does a Negroni Taste Like?

A negroni is a strong, bitter cocktail with notes of citrus and it’s very herbaceous. 

How to Pronounce Negroni

Negroni in Italian is pronounced neh-groh-nee.

Listen to the pronunciation of Negroni:

The First Negroni

Front door of Caffè Lietta in Florence, Italy. You can see someone sitting at a table inside. There are chairs stacked outside and ivy growing on the wall.

Story goes that the Negroni was first created and named after Count Camillo Negroni in Florence in 1919. When Count Negroni came to Fosco Scarselli’s bar, Café Casoni, he requested his favorite drink, the Americano, but with a twist: the soda water was replaced with gin and the Negroni was born. This bar is now called bar Lietta.

What Is Campari?

Close up of bottle of Campari on a marble surface.

Campari is the name of a trademarked alcoholic bitter with an ABV of 25%. It’s made by infusing alcohol and water with various herbs and fruit, creating a bitter flavor with a dark red color, most commonly enjoyed as an aperitif. 

Fact: The original bright red color of Campari came from crushing the small insects that were used in the original recipe. Today, artificial coloring is added and bugs are no longer part of the recipe. 

Campari is part of the Italian category of alcohol known as amaro/amari or “bitters”.

Campari was first invented in 1960 by Gaspare Campari in Novare, Italy and quickly became a staple in Italy.  Today, this bitter aperitif is owned by Gruppo Campari, which also owns Aperol. 

What Does Campari Taste Like?

It’s no surprise that Campari is a bit bitter, being a bitter after all. It can be described as having citrus undertones of orange, clove and cinnamon with a hint of cherry. Compared to Aperol, it’s much more bitter and almost double in alcohol content. 

What Is Campari Used For?

a hand holding a campari spritz in a plastic cup garnished with an orange slice and straw

Here is a list of the most popular and beloved cocktails that use Campari:

Read More: Want to know more about Italian cocktails? Read our comprehensive guide to the Best Italian Cocktails.

Why You Should Always Keep A Bottle Of Campari On Hand

The first reason you should keep a bottle of Campari in your home bar collection is because you make so many delicious cocktails with it (see list above). 

It’s a great liquor to drink over ice as an aperitif and can withstand being mixed with other ingredients prior to drinking, making for easy entertaining. 

And if you don’t want to follow a recipe or you’re missing an ingredient for a specific aperitif? No problem! Because Campari is very bitter, just a small amount can be added to many sweet drinks to create an added level of flavor and complexity.

And if all else fails, you can always whip up a Campari Soda made with club soda and a shot of Campari for a fresh, easy summer drink. 

Negroni Ingredients

negroni ingredients with gin on left, hand holding campari in middle and vermouth on right on a marble board
  • 1 part (1 oz or 3 cl) Campari
  • 1 part (1 oz or 3 cl) gin
  • 1 part (1 oz or 3 cl) sweet red vermouth 

What Kind Of Gin To Use In A Negroni

Bottle of Bombay Sapphire gin laying on a marble surface.

Gin is such a personal preference because it can greatly differ from brand to brand and in this case, country to country. Here in Italy, a lot of people like Bombay Sapphire and that is my personal preference. Cittadelle Gin is another really good option.

If you live in America you might use other popular choices such as Hendrick’s gin.

Good To Know: There is no right or wrong way to make a Negroni when it comes to the type of gin. Use whatever gin you prefer, what is accessible or affordable for you!

Best Campari For Negroni

top view of campari bottle on a marble board from top view

At this point I am a die-hard fan of the classic Campari bitters used to make Negroni. I have lived in Italy for 10+ years and I would feel like a traitor if I used anything else!

Today, there are several smaller companies that are dipping their toes into making bitters so if you are a campari fan, I suggest you branch out and try some of the newer and artisan brands on the market today (see Negroni Without Campari below).

Best Vermouth For Negroni

close up top view of martini vermouth green bottle on marble countertop

The most accessible and affordable option of vermouth out there is Martini but consider Carpano Antica for a slightly higher quality. 

Consider an artisan vermouth as well because it can really characterize your cocktails!

Good To Know: Vermouth only lasts about three months after it’s opened so be sure you are using one that hasn’t been in your cabinet for years!

How To Make A Negroni

  1. Pour the Campari, gin and sweet vermouth into a small fold-fashioned glass filled with ice (the bigger the pieces of ice, the better).
  2. Stir well and garnish with a slice of fresh orange or a twist of orange peel. 

Full Recipe: For our detailed instructions and tips for making a Negroni read How To Make A Campari Negroni – Recipe + How To Serve It

How To Serve a Negroni

Two old fashioned glasses sitting on a white marble surface.

A Negroni should be served in a small tumbler glass or old-fashioned glass over large chunks of ice, also known as “on the rocks”. 

Negronis are most commonly garnished with a slice of orange (either a thin whole round slice or a thin slice cut in half to look like a half moon) or a twist of orange (a piece of just orange peel) directly in the glass and not on the lip of the glass.

Campari Substitutions

Campari, although trademarked by Gruppo Campari and created with a secret recipe, is not only a specific product but can refer to the general flavor palette of the Campari bitter recipe.

Many artisan varieties have made their way onto the market these days which are worth hunting down if you are an amaro-lover. They won’t be called Campari but if you are interested in playing around, you will find there are many similar brands on the market.

Campari is such a unique flavor, much more bitter and full-bodied than its counterpart Aperol which is why it’s really hard to replace. 

I strongly suggest you try and use Campari or one of the suggested alternatives below if a recipe calls for it. If you substitute it with Aperol, you will end up with a very sweet, unbalanced cocktail. Aperol is better suited for a classic Italian spritz.

Negroni Without Campari

line of various campari brands lined up at a supermarket for sale on a shelf

You can absolutely make Negroni with other bitters that are similar to Campari (meaning they are very bitter, herbal with a touch of citrus). 

Here are my suggestions:

  • Bruto Bitters (California based)
  • Contratto Bitters (Italy based)
  • Luna Aperitivo (Washington D.C. based)
  • Lockhouse Distillery Ibisco Bitter Liqueur (New York based)

Negroni Variations

negroni sbagliato ingredients with martini on left, hand holding prosecco in middle and campari on right on a marble board

The biggest and most famous variation of the Negroni is the Negroni Sbagliato (pronounced neh-groh-nee sbahl-yah-toh in Italian).

Listen to pronunciation of Negroni Sbagliato: 

Sbagliato means “wrong” or “mistake” and that is exactly how this variation of a Negroni was created. 

Story goes that Mirko Stocchetti of Bar Basso in Milan was making a Negroni but he accidentally added sparkling white wine instead of gin and the cocktail was born! Today, it’s made with equal parts Campari, Prosecco and sweet red vermouth.  

Campari Negroni FAQ

Where was the Negroni invented?

The Negroni was invented in Italy by Fosco Scarselli in his bar, Café Casoni in Florence

What is a Negroni made of?

A Negroni is made from Campari, sweet vermouth and gin in equal parts

Can you make Negroni for a crowd?

Negronis are great for crowds because you can mix the liquor beforehand and then just mix them individually before serving.

Is a Negroni shaken or stirred?

A Negroni is stirred rather than shaken.

How is a Negroni served?

A Negroni is served in a small tumbler glass or old-fashioned glass over ice or on the rocks with a twist of orange.

What kind of glass should you serve a Negroni in?

A Negroni should be served in a small tumbler glass or old-fashioned glass.

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