A Gin Expert Explains Why The Negroni Is So Special

The negroni cocktail has surged in popularity as more and more drinkers turn to modern classics. It has an interesting backstory, it easy to make and is almost 100 years old. We spoke to a gin expert about how to get into negronis (and why you should.)

A negroni is the perfect bitter alternative to sweeter, sugar-heavy cocktails like the margarita or mojito. It's made of equal parts Campari, gin, and sweet vermouth stirred over ice.

We spoke to small Australian distillery Four Pillars Gin creative director James Irvine who gave us the lowdown on why this cocktail is all the rage right now.

"It's got to do with the flavour profile, and it's interesting history," he said.

"The negroni was created in 1919 at Bar Casoni in Firenze, Italy. A local Count, Camillo Negroni, asked for an extra kick to his Americano cocktail (Campari, sweet vermouth and soda water) by substituting the soda for gin.

"Unfortunately, that bar is gone, and is now a leathersmith shop. But the negroni lives on, and is going to turn 100 years old next year.

"I try to avoid talking about 'trends' with cocktails, but you just need to look at the timeline to see what the next popular drink will be.

"Since we've left the disco era and the sweet fruit pureed cocktails that came with it, may they rest in peace, people started wanting to drink classic cocktails so we've seen a real renaissance with the old classics coming back into fashion."

The less-sweet, bitter and savoury cocktails head that renaissance, and Irvine says that the negroni is at the forefront of it.

"There's been a shift in what we drink and how we drink it."

The negroni is an aperitivo, and was designed to be drunk before a meal where the botanicals stimulate the appetite and after eating to stimulate the digestive system.

"It's also a great pairing cocktail, and goes well with any food."

Irvine says the beauty lies in its simplicity.

"What makes the negroni great is that it's quite accessible to make at home," he said.

"It's equal parts of spirits that can sit on your shelf for years.

"Even the vermouth, which is an aromatised wine, has been oxidised already, and if it's kept in the fridge, virtually has no expiration date.

"I even keep a bottle of negroni that I've pre-made in the fridge at home."

For those who may not like the strong, bitter taste of a negroni, there are plenty of twists that can be added and substituted to change the flavour profile.

"A great twist on the classic negroni is the blanc negroni, which uses a french liquor called Suze, made from the gentian root, instead of Campari."

The addition of the Suze makes it a little more delicate than the punchy classic.

"Or adding a spiced gin adds a nice twist and is perfect for this time of year as it's quite autumnal," he says.

"We have a cacao negroni variant at our negroni week pop up that we make using cacao nibs which has bitter tannins which gives the negroni a chocolatey vibe."

If you're not in the mood to make your own at home, there's a plethora of bars in Sydney that offer interesting twists. Here's a list of some of the best aperitivo bars in Sydney.


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