The Negroni is perhaps the most iconic equal-parts cocktail, but its standard build of gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth still leaves plenty of room for experimentation. At J & Tony’s Discount Cured Meats and Negroni Warehouse in San Diego, partner Anthony Schmidt takes the classic drink in a variety of directions by simply switching up one component. “Using the same cocktail template of the Negroni, you can play with various recipes and varying vermouths,” says Schmidt. Here are his picks for the best vermouths for Negronis.
Recognizable for its rich notes of vanilla, this old-school vermouth has long been a go-to bottle for Negronis, but Schmidt makes a small tweak to his house version. “Tony’s Negroni is a drink specifically designed around the exxxtra thiccck Carpano Antica Formula,” he explains. “When I was a young pup coming up in the cocktail game, I would typically order a Negroni, and most fancy-type bars would use an equal parts recipe of dry gin, Campari, and Carpano Antica. But the Antica is quite rich, so I’d add a squeeze of lemon (on the DL! I’m not a monster). It became my thing—I love it. So, to this day, we use lemon in an equal-parts Negroni using Antica on the J&T menu.” $18.99/375ml, astorwines.com
To take the Negroni profile in a subtly different direction, Schmidt reaches for iconic French vermouth Dolin, with its lighter body and gently spicy notes. “Dolin Rouge is a sleeper,” says Schmidt. “I really love it in the equal-parts recipe when pairing with a creamy gin, like Plymouth. [Express and discard] a lemon twist and, here, I love a half-orange-wheel garnish for a kiss of extra sweetness.” $14.49/750ml, totalwine.com
A new player on the vermouth field, Giardino was created by Italian producer Villa Massa in collaboration with U.S. bar pros Chris Patino and Stacey Swenson, with an eye specifically toward cocktails. “A stirred, up Negroni doesn’t get enough love, but the technique can benefit from an ideal vermouth,” says Schmidt. “Here, I focus on Giardino Tradizionale for its obviously wine-forward backbone.” For this one, Schmidt recommends scaling the proportions a touch, keeping the vermouth at 1 ounce, while dropping the Campari to 3/4 ounce and bumping up the gin (ideally Sipsmith London dry) to 1 1/4 ounces. “Stir, up, lemon twist. Money.” $39.99/750ml, kegnbottle.com
To take things in an unexpected direction, Schmidt reaches for this French vermouth made with local white wines mixed with red Pineau des Charentes and a blend of 28 botanicals. “For massive herbaceousness and a super-unique take on an equal-parts Negroni, I’m into La Quintinye Royal Vermouth,” he says. “Give this one a dash of green Chartreuse for a bit of extra ‘Hey, how ya doin.’ And definitely use a lemon twist—hella intriguing.” $29.50/750ml, bittersandbottles.com
For a wildcard option, Schmidt again grabs a bottle of Giardino, this time utilizing their Mediterranean Dry vermouth for a lower-ABV Negroni riff. “This falls along the lines of ‘What happens when a Negroni Bianco meets a Bamboo in a bar,’” says Schmidt. “I really dig the bright citrus profile of Giardino Mediterranean Dry. I’d chug it on the rocks with a lemon twist, no prob. But I also love matching it with a dry sherry like manzanilla or fino, and a bitter bianco, namely Salers. This lil’ number in equal parts, garnished with an olive and a lemon twist, induces spontaneous chef’s kiss emoji hand. Aperitivo optimized.” $26.99/750ml, b-21.com