Negroni 3 Ways

By / Wine + Drinks / December 14th, 2021 / 1

Everything old seems to be new again.

One of the big trends in recent years is classic cocktails, and the Negroni is certainly a classic. Reportedly invented in 1919 by Count Camillo Negroni in Florence, Italy, it has its variations, as do many classic cocktails. Normally it is described as equal parts Campari (the most well known bitter Italian aperitif), London Dry Gin, and sweet red Vermouth, served on ice with a slice of orange.  

Some recipes call for a dash of bitters too, although why would you need it when there is Campari? Other variations call for less vermouth, for those preferring a drier, more bitter style. I normally use around 1 ounce each of Gin and Campari, and slightly less Italian vermouth, but I like to experiment with different sweet components, including such things as Creme de Cassis and local fruit liqueurs.

Having recently received a sample of the classic Tanqueray London Gin, I decided to do an experiment and see what works best for the “sweet” component. Tanqueray is a classic, not super heavy on the botanicals but a very clean and dependable gin for G&Ts, Negronis and Martinis. 

I compared Cinzano red Vermouth, Martini’s slightly more premium Vermouth di Torino, and Dubonnet, which is not technically Vermouth, but Queen Elizabeth loves it with gin, and that’s good enough for me.

Here are my results:

Cinzano Tanqueray Negroni – Cinzano Rosso, ~$16/1 litre

This is what I usually make around the house, as it is good value. The Cinzano has a somewhat oxidized (like really old Port), but heavily spice accented palate.  The resulting Negroni is slightly rust coloured, quite rustic and robust, with good bitterness and spice.  It is pretty classic and tasty. 

Martini Tanqueray Negroni – Martini Riserva Speciale Rubini Vermouth di Torino, ~$25/750 ml

The change in the Negroni when using this vermouth is that it adds a more wine-like, sweet red fruit flavour as well as oak and a somewhat smoother palate. That said, it is not dramatically different, as the gin and Campari really dominate.

Dubonnet Tanqueray Negroni – Dubonnet, ~$16/750 ml

I really enjoy what France’s Dubonnet brings to a Negroni. Although Dubonnet is a somewhat herbal influenced fortified red wine cordial, it is not a vermouth. I find this Negroni (if I may call it that) has more of a black and red fruit note, maybe dark cherry or blackberry, and is a bit less bitter and herbal. 

So, which did I like best? These are all delicious cocktails, and I urge you to try your own variations.


Craig Pinhey discovered good drink circa 1985 at Ginger’s Tavern/Granite Brewery in Halifax and has been writing about beer, wine and spirits for 25 years. A Certified Sommelier and BJCP judge, Craig lives in New Brunswick where he runs his own writing and consulting business and is the beverage columnist for Brunswick News. He is the only person to have judged all of the national wine, spirits and beer awards of Canada.

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