The Negroni has been around for a full century, but the distinct red cocktail feels as fresh as ever. That’s due partly to its simple trio of ingredients – equal parts Campari, rosso vermouth and London dry gin, garnished with a wedge of orange – and partly to how well it matches with a meal.
“It’s a cocktail that links a lot to food,” says Eduardo Conde, venue manager at Glebe wine bar No. 92.“That’s why it has such a reputation worldwide. Everyone knows what a Negroni is.”
The Negroni was invented in 1919 by a Florentine gentleman called Count Camillo Negroni (yes, really) who one day ordered an Americano – Campari, sweet vermouth, and soda water – with gin instead of soda. The bartender replaced the usual lemon peel garnish with an orange peel and the Negroni was born. (FYI Campari, the red heart of every Negroni, was actually invented way back in 1860).
The drink’s enduring appeal will be on display this September for Negroni Week, a worldwide celebration run by Campari and cocktail magazine Imbibe, that sees bars and restaurants donate $1 to a charity of their choice for every Negroni sold. The initiative also inspires bartenders to get creative with their own bespoke twists on the drink. With this year’s event, which runs from September 13 to 20, taking place in lockdown, bars around Sydney and Melbourne are offering takeaway and delivery versions of their Negroni twists.
For No. 92 that includes its spicy Negroni Messicano, featuring Campari infused with ancho-chilli oil and gin infused with lime peel. It will be available for takeaway during Negroni Week until the end of September, alongside a Tropical Negroni (Campari, quince gin, mango vermouth) and a Coconut Negroni featuring coconut-infused Campari. All three appear in a limited four-bottle set available to ship within Sydney..
A nod to Mexico, where Conde and the venue’s head chef and sous chef all hail from, the Negroni Messicano embraces both the Australian spring weather and some of the subtle Mexican influences on the wine bar’s food menu. Conde infuses the Campari with ancho-chilli oil (you could also use chipotle or mulato chilli) and the gin with lime peel. (You can even just add a few drops of chilli oil while stirring the Negroni rather than infusing the Campari. Similarly, you could opt for a citrus-driven gin in lieu of the lime-peel infusion.) That way you get citrus and spice notes without swapping out any of the three key ingredients. “Don’t change it too much,” says Conde. “You still want it to taste like a Negroni.”
As for garnish, Conde suggests a blood orange or grapefruit twist, and says you could even forage in your neighbourhood for mango leaves, loquats or other fresh and seasonal options.
Here’s how to make the Negroni Messicano at home.
Makes 1 serving. Approx. 1.9 standard drinks.
30 ml Campari infused with ancho-chilli oil
30ml Cinzano Rosso Vermouth
30ml Bulldog gin infused with lime peel
Add ingredients to a mixing glass. Stir and serve in chilled rocks glass with ice. Garnish with a slice of blood orange.