taste test

Which Negroni To Go Is Right for You?

Everything but the twist. Photo: Dante NYC

The amazing thing about the Negroni is that the complex result is completely out of whack with the nitwit simplicity involved in whipping one up. Just build the drink in an iced rocks glass following the classic 1:1:1 specs, stir, garnish with an orange peel, and have at it. Even if you jumble the gin-vermouth-Campari ratios, whether intentionally or not, it’s still delicious. You cannot botch a Negroni. Another thing about the Negroni is that it refutes the old argument about not ordering things in bars and restaurants you can make as well at home. Negronis are too damn good, so why deprive yourself just because you’ve left the house? And yet there comes a time in the life of every pajama-clad pandemic homebody when the mind goes and the muscles shrink and even the minuscule effort it takes to pour three types of liquid into a glass seems to daunt and baffle. That is the time to support your neighborhood bar and order a pre-batched cocktail delivered to your door. Luckily, Negronis abound on pandemic delivery menus and are transported in bottles and jars and deli containers alongside the morsels of food that current statutes require accompany them. We stocked up on ice, got out our citrus peeler, and summoned a representative sampling from our Negroni-drenched delivery zone (no Negroni variations allowed). Here’s how they fared.

1. Dante’s Negroni
Funny to think that way back when, Campari and Negronis were generally considered too bitter for American baby palates. Now, aficionados contend that Negronis are often too sweet. Audrey Saunders of the late, great Pegu Club broke it down for us once with her typical shrewd analysis, awakening us to the fact that while Campari is bitter, it’s also sweet; and when combined with sweet vermouth in the traditional 1:1:1 Negroni ratios, the result is two parts bitterish-sweet ganging up on gin’s one part strong. The solution: use a higher-proof gin and more of it. That thinking must be shared by the Negroni gurus at Dante who go long and strong on the gin — a crisp and citrusy 94-proof Bombay Sapphire — to tame the sweetness. It’s a Negroni that will put hair on your chest, and it comes in three sizes: 8 oz., $28; 375 ml., $47; and 750 ml., $93. Get it with a mortadella panino.

2. I Sodi’s Negroni Classico
Some consider I Sodi the house that Negronis and lasagna built; now, you can lap up both in the comfort of your own home. The “classico” is supersmooth and about as well-balanced as a Simone Biles triple double dismount; credit the unusual use of dueling vermouths (half–Dolin Rouge, half–Punt e Mes). And the elegant presentation — hefty corked apothecary-style bottle wrapped tightly in red tissue paper — makes it feel like a Christmas present (375 ml., $30).

3. PDT’s Negroni
As befits its speakeasy source, this rich, round Negroni arrives in a glass mini-flask with its ingredients printed on the label: Campari, of course, plus the versatile bartenders’ favorite Fords gin and Martini Gran Lusso, a rare anniversary vermouth bottling. What better to complement it than a Spicy Redneck, a bacon-wrapped hot dog with chili, pickled jalapeño, and coleslaw (3.5 oz., $12)?

4. Attaboy’s Negroni
They send you the drink in a plastic deli takeout container, but they make up for it by throwing in a gorgeous hand-carved chunk of crystal-clear ice in a Ziploc bag (plus a vending-machine-size packet of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos). Clever casting, too: The soft Plymouth gin has what a rom-com-film critic would call great chemistry with its pruney Cocchi Vermouth di Torino co-star (3 oz., $15).

5. Hearth’s Negroni
For purists, a Negroni isn’t a Negroni without Campari. For the drinks mavens at Hearth, the absence of Campari is the selling point. In its place, they use Bèrto Red Bitter, an aperitivo made in Piedmont since the late 19th century. And seeing that chef-owner Marco Canora goes to the trouble of milling his own pasta flour, you’d be remiss not to order the summery canestri alla Norma with eggplant, tomato, and ricotta salata (8 oz., $19).

6. Vic’s Classic Negroni
The medicinal bite might be the Cinzano 1757, a Campari-owned vermouth brand known for its signature notes of wormwood and resin. Food softens the blow — especially chef Hillary Sterling’s gobsmacking take on a blooming onion: buttermilk-brined, rice-flour-coated, deep-fried petals blasted with Parmesan and dried tomato (4 oz., $15).

7. Campari Bottled Negroni
To get in on America’s Never-Ending Negroni Craze, Milan-based Campari began bottling its own premixed version of that cocktail in liter bottles a few years ago. Tasting note from our judges: “Strong and sweet and mysteriously reminiscent — not in a bad way — of the Italian hard candies dear old Nonna would keep in a bowl on the dining-room table” ($36.96 at Astor Wines & Spirits).

8. St. Agrestis’s Box of Negronis
Is there a better way to prepare for the apocalypse than stocking your bunker cooler with a 1.75-liter box of Negronis (good, they say, for about 20 drinks)? This Brooklyn spirits company’s super-spicy recipe is for those who like their Negronis as rich and robust as a mug of Swedish glögg ($60).

*This article appears in the August 3, 2020, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!

Which Negroni To Go Is Right for You?