Even with just three ingredients, the Negroni is one of the easiest drinks to screw up. Because no matter how bitter and delicious Campari is, it can’t hide cheap, low-quality vermouth or gin.
Let’s put aside the gin for now, and focus on the all too often disregarded sweet vermouth. Not all sweet vermouths taste the same. It’s quite the opposite, in fact. Each brand has its own signature flavor and personality, making for totally unique Negronis. If you’re not sure which brand is for you, we’re here to help. Here is our guide to choosing the best sweet vermouth for your ultimate Negroni.
This dark amber vermouth is a recreation of the recipe originally developed by Cocchi’s founder, Giulio Cocchi, in 1891. Made with a moscato wine at its base, it has flavors of rhubarb, tobacco leaf and kola nut. The vermouth’s hefty, velvety texture makes for a wonderfully elegant Negroni.
Cinzano crafted this small-batch vermouth using the company’s original 1757 recipe as an homage to the company’s founding fathers, Giovanni Giacomo and Carlo Stefano. Extremely flavorful and rich, with notes of earth, baking spices, black pepper and briar fruits, this vermouth adds depth and roundness to any cocktail.
For a Less Bitter Negroni: Byrrh $18
If Campari’s bite is just too much for you, tame it with this aromatized wine. A blend of muscat, carignan, macabeu and grenache grape juices is left unfermented, then layered with flavors of sour cherry, sassafras and oak.
For an Extra Bitter Negroni: Punt E Mes $20
According to legend, in 1870, Carpano’s tasting room barman, Maurizio Boeris, was asked by a local stockbroker for a “point” of Carpano vermouth with “half a point” of bitters. (A “point” was a colloquial unit of measurement used in Italian bars.) The resulting cocktail was the basis for this extra-bitter red vermouth and the inspiration for the name Punt e Mes, which translates from Piedmontese to “point and a half.” With flavors of bitter orange, sweet dark cherry and a heavy dose of quinine for bitterness, this spirit brings an acerbic twist to the Negroni.
This recipe from Carpano founder Antonio Benedetto Carpano has remained unchanged since 1786. An explosion of botanicals, with flavors of vanilla bean, cacao, root beer and raisin, and a deep nuttiness akin to a Madeira or sherry, this vermouth is literally fit for a king—it was a staple in the palace of King Vittorio Amedeo II.