People think the Negroni is an idiotproof cocktail. They’ll argue that the drink — a simple construct, usually made of equal parts gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari — is good everywhere you go, because it’s roughly the same everywhere you go, and impossible to fuck up. Nonsense. While it’s rare to find a truly bad Negroni, some are measurably better than others. And the six versions below are New York’s absolute best.
134 Eldridge St., nr. Broome St.; no phone
Attaboy does a pretty bang-up job on most classic cocktails, as one would expect from a bar of its pedigree. But its Negroni is particularly impressive. Made of equal parts Plymouth Gin, Campari, and Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, the drink has more power than those ingredients would telegraph. (Some think Plymouth, while an excellent gin, is too delicate to hold its own in a Negroni. Not true here.) The smart choice of vermouth adds to the mix’s depth and finesse.
142 W. 65th St., nr. Broadway; 212-359-6500
Lincoln Ristorante, when it opened in 2010, cashed in on the Negroni craze by offering a full “Negroni bar.” Patrons build their own drinks, choosing from six different gins, vermouths, and amari. While a fun stunt, it’s difficult to condone the concept, as a Negroni is not a Negroni at all if it’s made with Cynar or Aperol (two of the bitters offerings). But, if you decline to play Lincoln’s game, the bartender will make you a drink with its well liquors — Citadelle gin, Martini & Rossi, Campari — that does the cocktail up proud. The mix is in equal portions and served on a handsome ice sphere. The elegant surroundings undoubtedly add to the drink’s appeal.
4. Amor y Amargo
443 E. 6th St., nr. Ave. A; 212-614-6818
As a cocktail bar that specializes in all things bitter, the Negroni is one of Amor y Amargo’s signature drinks. I’ve always thought the forthright London-dry gin Beefeater the best choice for a Negroni and, as it’s the only gin this bar carries, that is what’s used. The vermouth is the equally broad-shouldered Carpano Antica. The drink is given a brief stir, so it comes at you with some teeth. How strong it is depends on the server. Chief barkeep Sother Teague goes heavy on the gin, pouring 2 ounces to 1 ounce each of vermouth and Campari. (He also throws in a couple dashes of Angostura bitters, a radical touch.) His lieutenant, Lindsay Matteson, takes it down to an ounce. Both versions are good — but you get more bang for your buck with Teague’s spec.
Upon opening, Marta, Danny Meyer’s delectable homage to Roman-style pizza, planted its flag in the name of the Negroni by offering individual, bottle-aged Negronis. A gimmick, to be sure, but the liquid inside is good. Equal parts Beefeater, Cinzano Rosso, and Campari, the cocktail comes off as less aggressive and bitter, owing — one imagines — to the bottle-aging. It is balanced and plenty satisfying, nonetheless.
6. The Gilroy
1561 Second Ave., nr. 81st St.; 212-734-8800
Like Dante, the Gilroy, on the Upper East Side, makes a fuss over the Negroni, offering the original drink and its many variations (Negroni Sbagliato, White Negroni, etc., along with a highly specious history of the drink’s origin). In the past, the house Negroni here has seemed lackluster, but on a recent visit, I found the formula had been changed and greatly improved by current bar manager Tom Máthé. Made with the excellent, new British spirit Cotswolds Dry Gin, and the California-produced vermouth Alessio Rosso, as well as the requisite Campari, the Gilroy’s new rendition is aggressively dry. But each palate-stripping sip leaves you thirsting for more. The drink is served up, a presentation that means the liquid gets warmer faster, but then, it drinks so well that this cocktail won’t last very long in the glass.