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On a Negroni trail across India

From the classic to the innovative, the world’s number one cocktail of 2023, has found a permanent place in Indian bars

A classic Negroni has equal parts (30 ml) of gin, Campari and sweet vermouth.(Photo: Allan Francis, Unsplash)

By Raul Dias

LAST PUBLISHED 07.06.2023  |  09:24 AM IST

Famous for its dark, sunset hue and rich, bitter, orange-flavoured undertones, the negroni is one cocktail that has great bar appeal. Traditionally made with gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari, the negroni is said to have been created in Florence, Italy at Bar Casoni in 1919 by a bartender named Fosco Scarselli.

According to Gary “Gaz" Regan’s book The Negroni: Drinking to La Dolce Vita, with Recipes & Lore this was on the request of an Italian nobleman, Count Camillo Negroni. Ergo, its name. 

Giving it great currency is this year's Drinks International magazine’s Cocktail Report which crowned the negroni as the number one cocktail. And, why not? Not only is the negroni one of the most potent cocktails, but also it lends itself to various interpretations. Each rendition as innovative and unique as the next, pushing the boundaries of cocktail creativity. Take for example the sparkling sbagliato variation (with prosecco in lieu of gin) that recently had its 15 seconds of fame.

Here’s our pick of 10 negronis, including an alcohol-free one:

Canteen Negroni at The Bombay Canteen, Mumbai
While a classic negroni may take some getting used to with its bitter notes, this version we feel, is a great entryway into the world of this delicious, slightly fruity cocktail. This one is made with gin, a house made citrus ‘Campari’ and port wine (instead of vermouth) infused with all-spice and berries.

Curry Leaf Negroni at RCB Bar & Café, Bengaluru
Paying homage to South India, this negroni is made with fresh curry leaves infused in sweet vermouth for a whole day. The leaf makes an encore with the garnish element that ties the whole drink together. Thus, bringing out fresh green flavours and making it the perfect summer cocktail.

Chamomile Negroni at PCO, New Delhi
This iteration is a perfect blend of the herbaceous chamomile and bitter-sweet aperitif of Campari. PCO also calls this one “a lesson in sustainability" as it features a Van Gogh-inspired isomalt candy, made from leftover chamomile flowers and citrus peels. A drink that not only tastes and looks good, but is also imbued with artistic flare.

The Call of Nature at Ekaa, Mumbai
While it might seem like a visually appealing drink at first, its taste is no less potent. Served in a rock crystal glass it has a nest holding a thyme-infused ice ball which melts and dilutes the cocktail over time, giving it an earthy and floral flavour. Created by Jishnu, the restaurant’s head mixologist, this negroni brings together gin and Campari with the sweet vermouth and a garnish of even more thyme.

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Pre School Negroni at The Blue Bar, Taj Palace, New Delhi
As the zero proof cocktail trend continues to soar, and showing us that even a potent cocktail like a negroni can be made sans alcohol is the aptly named Pre School Negroni. Crafted with a zero-proof negroni liqueur, a dash of tonka bitters, and topped off with an orange twist, this one is guaranteed to not make you miss that buzz even once.

Koko Negroni at Koko, Mumbai
Another negroni with a berry twist, is this one from the Pan-Asian restaurant with a name that means “older brother" in Cantonese. To give the cocktail tangy and fruity flavours, mulberry is turned into a saccharum (an oily sugar syrup), which is then combined with Bombay Sapphire.

Rosemary Smoked Negroni at Maai, Goa
This Portuguese tapas restaurant does its negroni with a smoky twist. Here, head mixologist Mayur Malik infuses gin, Campari and Rosso with the smoke of a burnt rosemary frond. It is then served in a signature negroni glass.

Classic Negroni, The Sassy Spoon, Pune
At the Koregaon Park, Pune outlet of this Mumbai restaurant the guys behind the bar show us that simple need not be boring. Their classic negroni of the usual trio of gin, Campari and vermouth is much more than the sum of its parts with a bitter-sweet finish and smooth lingering mouthfeel.

Yuzu Negroni at Foo, Mumbai
This one is Italy via Japan with the bitter notes of a classic negroni being replaced with sour ones. Yuzu is a popular Japanese ingredient and pairs extremely well with the ingredients that traditionally go into making a negroni. Here it is combined with gin, Campari, vermouth, lime and a hint of cherry syrup.

Colour of Life at Aqua, The Park, Chennai
This summer-inspired negroni riff is made with a mango-infused gin, along with bitters that balance out the flavours of the drink and the vermouth. The fruity, tropical notes of mango compliment the drink, adding the perfect complexity of flavours.

Raul Dias is a Mumbai-based food and travel writer.