The Perfect Negroni: Gin and Vermouth Selections for a Classic Pairing

June 25, 2019

For many cocktail enthusiasts, the Negroni is one of the purest and most perfect examples of the craft. Three equal parts all pulling in the same direction, working together for mutual betterment.

While Campari is the constant in the drink, the gin and sweet vermouth can be chosen at your discretion. Considering the vast range of gins with varying styles and flavors, you’ll see that you need to choose wisely. Picking the right gin and matching it with its best sweet vermouth partner is essential in making the perfect Negroni.

Sipsmith Gin with Punt e Mes Vermouth

Regardless of your flavor preferences, the goal is always balance. “I look for the most beautiful balance of flavor, so I would choose a gin and sweet vermouth that together blend harmoniously in both aroma and flavor to create the most delicious Negroni,” says Cari Hah, of Big Bar in Los Angeles. She adds that sometimes that means finding similar flavor notes between the two bottles, and sometimes that means finding contrasting but complementary ones.

Perfect Negroni: Sipsmith London Dry GinSipsmith London Dry Gin / Photo Credit: Sipsmith

Hah often starts her pairing with the gin first, and then looks to find the correct vermouth. “I am a self-professed vermouth snob so I get a great personal satisfaction when I pick the perfect vermouth for a particular spirit,” she says. “I think about the sweetness factor, the bitter factor, the aroma and botanicals that are in both the spirit and the vermouth and try to choose a vermouth that will be the perfect partner for that spirit”

Her recipe, dubbed Steve’s Negroni, incorporates 1 oz. each of Sipsmith London Dry Gin, Punt e Mes, and Campari. Stir over a large ice cube and serve in a double rocks glass, with an expressed orange peel. Steve, one of her regular customers, wanted the drink made with Punt e Mes, so Hah started there. She finds that the Sipsmith can hold up to and cut through potent flavors of the vermouth to make the perfect Negroni.

This recipe—like the standard Negroni—calls for equal measures of gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari. But you could always tweak that ratio to help achieve a desired result. “Sometimes if the gin is super soft I will dial down the amount of sweet vermouth and bitter I use in the Negroni so the gin doesn’t drown and get lost,” Hah says.

Battle Standard 142 American Dry Gin Barrel Finished with Carpano Antica

With its original recipe dating back to 1786, Carpano Antica is one of the vermouth darlings of the bar world. This Italian vermouth served as the starting point in the Negroni from Michelle Hamo of Alexandria, Virginia’s Brabo Tasting Room. “I love all the spice notes of Carpano Antica, with baking spices and vanilla, and wanted to find a gin that would play nicely with these flavors,” Hamo says. “I found it in KO’s Battle Standard 142 Barrel Finished Gin. It is cardamom heavy and soft on the palate from spending time in bourbon barrels.”

Perfect Negroni: A Negroni cocktailA Negroni cocktail

She sought those complementary notes as a way to keep the profile of the drink clean and in harmony. “Simplicity is best, so instead of burying the drink under multiple ingredients, I spend time thinking about how that spirit plays on your palate,” Hamo says. “Balance is key.”

By choosing a barrel-finished gin, Hamo also delivers a perfect Negroni that falls somewhere in the middle of the spectrum separating Negronis from Boulevardiers. “The vermouth and gin bring together a nice combination of sweet and spice, providing balance to the astringent bitter orange of the Campari,” she says.

Hamo uses 1 oz. each of the gin, sweet vermouth and Campari. The drink is garnished with an orange peel and star anise.

Hayman’s Old Tom Gin with Punt e Mes Vermouth

Punt e Mes comes back here, though in a much different direction than the first example. Lauren Mathews, a bartender at Urbana in Washington, D.C., deploys the vermouth alongside the classic Hayman’s Old Tom Gin for her perfect Negroni.

Perfect Negroni: Hayman's Old Tom GinHayman’s Old Tom Gin / Photo Credit: Hayman’s Gin

“Hayman’s Old Tom gin is a great selection which complements the bitter taste of the Amari-style Punt e Mes,” Mathews says.

Of course, being an Old Tom, Hayman’s lends a particular sweetness to the profile that neither a London Dry or modern-style gin offer. This makes for a smooth sipping Negroni where the bright bitter of the Campari really pops. “Add these two with Campari, and you suddenly have a Negroni that really shines,” adds Mathews.

Her approach is to help one particular ingredient take the lead. “When pairing vermouth with gin, I focus on which flavor I want to stand out,” Mathews says. “If I want a Negroni that is more gin-pronounced, I’ll keep it simple with a sweet-leaning vermouth.”

Stir up an equal 1 oz. Hayman’s Old Tom gin, Punt e Mes, and Campari, to sample her Old Tom Negroni.

Ready to make your perfect Negroni?

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