If you've read Blood, Bones & Butter or have been to any respectable bar or fabulous dinner party lately, you will know that food lovers are hard-core Negroni-crazed. We are too! Our personal favorites? The Negroni served at the magnificent St. Regis in Rome and recently, a mezcal mash-up right here at Temple Bar. But there's more than enough variations on the classic Italian cocktail to go around: Here are ten recommendations, musings, and fuzzy memories from some of New York's best chefs, restaurateurs, and booze gurus.
Jonathan Waxman, Barbuto
"Selfish though it may seem, my JW Negroni remains my favorite. I dislike a ruby-red Negroni — far too bittersweet — and I like the flavor of good gin. And since I am enamored with all things rosé, I devised this many years ago."
1 teaspoon each: Campari and Punt e Mes
1 1/2 jiggers of really excellent gin
1. Chill a proper glass for 5 minutes (1/2 water and 1/2 ice). (I like the ones from Minners.)
2. In a glass or silver shaker (not steel!), fill halfway with ice. Add the liquors. Let sit for 2 minutes. Then stir using a glass stirrer; do not shake.
3. Discard ice from glass and using an antique-style silver strainer, pour in the Negroni. I like a bit of a zest of orange (no pith!).
Patrick Cappiello, partner and beverage director, Pearl & Ash
“I had the best Negroni of my life sitting at a little restaurant on a cliff in Cinque Terre called Gianni Franzi. I was on vacation there about ten years ago and stopped by this place for a quick lunch, and we started (and ended) our meal with Negronis. It's right on the Italian Riviera overlooking the water, and it was the perfect cocktail for the most amazing view.”
Joe Campanale, partner and beverage director, dell'anima, L'Artusi, Anfora, and L'Apicio
“I first learned to love Negronis while living in Florence as a student. I'd go to places that would participate in 'aperitif,' where bars and restaurants would put out arrays of free and sometimes very tasty food in order to attract drinkers. It was a great way for a college student to eat for free while doing something very Italian. Negronis were and still are my drink of choice, and I do many different variations at our restaurants — we make them with roasted oranges at dell'anima, do a bianco version at L'Apicio, and so on.”
Robert Krueger, beverage director, Extra Fancy
"My bartender friends like to batch up a pitcher of Negronis at the start of a party to get all the equal-parts-ing out of the way. Neither the gin nor the vermouth are particularly important (though my favorites are Fords and Cocchi Torino), but there's never an option of going without an orange for the twists. We make big batches and simply bottle up what we don’t drink for the next day. But really, all you need to know is this: The best Negroni is cold, large, and right now, with an orange twist."
Erick Castro, bartender, the Boilermaker
“Negronis are simply the most perfect cocktail before a good meal. They are intensely bittersweet, yet rich with complexity, so although they are designed to stimulate the appetite, they do so in a way that delivers an abundance of flavor without cutting any corners. The way I prepare them is stirred at equal parts with Beefeater Gin and served over the rocks with an orange slice. The ice lets the drink open up and unfold in front of you as you sip, and the orange slice slowly saturates the flavor of the drink as you sip it. Plus the higher ABV of a good London Dry Gin keeps the Campari from manhandling the other ingredients.”
Pamela Wiznitzer, bartender, the Dead Rabbit
“The best (and most interesting) Negroni I've had was bottled and aged: Negronis that span back over eight months. As the Negronis sit, the bitterness and sugars incorporate with the gin and the cocktail begins to morph. It's such an interesting drinking experiment and experience. Rather than barrel-aged Negronis that drastically alter the taste because of the wood interaction, this process allows the cocktail to preserve its essence in the bottle and age with just the three ingredients incorporating with one another. This was at the Gilroy on the Upper East Side."
Michael Lomonaco, executive chef/partner, Porter House New York and Center Bar
“The Negroni is my drink. I like to sip a Negroni in the Piazza Navona in Rome. No matter where it’s from, I like a classic Negroni made with Tanqueray Gin. It’s my favorite thing to do on a Sunday afternoon, sit in Piazza Navona, Negroni in hand. When I was just in Rome last month, it was the first thing I did when I got off the plane.”
Olivier Flosse, beverage director, A Voce
“The best Negroni ever was at the Hotel Weber in Capri on the day of my wedding. It was the best Negroni of my life. I had time before the church on a beautiful summer day, and was sitting on the terrace of my hotel. I asked the bartender to bring me a drink of his choice. He brought a perfect Negroni; it was classic and perfectly balanced. I liked it so much, I had two more.”
John DeLucie, chef and restaurateur, the Lion, the Crown, King Cole Bar
“My favorite Negroni was at Villa Treville in Positano, Italy. It was such an elegant moment, drinking that with an amazing view of the Amalfi coast. My Negroni at Crown is great, too — the Star Anise Negroni, which includes gin, Campari, vermouth, star-anise tincture, and orange peel.”
Kenneth McCoy, bartender and owner, Ward III and the Rum House
"The best Negroni I ever had was made by a Sicilian Scotsman by the name of Nino Cirabisi, who owns and operates the bar called Bonnie Vee at 17 Stanton Street. I believe the reason it's so good has something to do with his blood, obviously, and the love he puts into it. Bellissimo!"