Recipe by Nichole Scaraglino
Blind Barbour, Raleigh, North Carolina
“When my life was a mess, this beautiful ruby-red cocktail kind of helped put everything back into place,” says Nichole Scaraglino. She had just gone through a divorce and was looking to make a career change. “I took a sip, and it was really different than anything else I’d ever tasted,” she says. “I fell in love with the drink then and there.” It helped inspire Scaraglino to make a career of mixology, and today she’s head bartender at Raleigh’s the Blind Barbour.
The key to the Negroni’s flavor—and color—is Campari. An Italian liqueur flavored with gentian root, citrus peel, and other herbs and spices, it has a complex, bright, and powerfully bittersweet flavor. It’s hugely popular in aperitif drinks, where bitterness helps stimulate the appetite before a meal.
The Negroni traces its ancestry to the Americano, a nineteenth-century cocktail that mixes Campari with sweet vermouth and club soda. In the early 1900s—or so the legend goes—a Campari-loving Florentine count named Camillo Negroni, looking for something a bit stronger, asked his bartender to swap the club soda for gin, and an enduring classic was born.
For cocktail novices, a bitter flavor can seem scary, but the Negroni wraps it in seductive charms. To stand up to Campari, you want an assertive gin and sweet vermouth. For the latter, Scaraglino suggests Carpano Antica Formula, a rich vermouth that’s very popular among the craft-cocktail set. And for the gin, Scaraglino says the classic Beefeater London Dry is a great choice, or you can try something local: She’s also a fan of the two Conniption Gins from nearby Durham Distillery.