It was in 1919 that Camillo Negroni, a Florentine count, ordered the fizzy water in his Americano cocktail to be switched out with gin. And thus a century ago the classic negroni cocktail was born. Today, according to a survey taken by the magazine Drinks International, it’s the second most-called-for cocktail worldwide (the old-fashioned finished first). In part, that may be due to its simplicity—it’s hard for a bartender to screw up equal parts gin, sweet vermouth and an Italian or Italianate bitter aperitivo (traditionally Campari). But that simple standard has yielded endless riffs, including questionable variants made using aquavit, rum, rose, coffee and even squid ink.
Baglioni Hotel London, England
You would expect negroni paradiso at a 5-star luxury Italian hotel in London’s Kensington, and you get it. Three lavish options include Duomo Negroni, with Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, Sarpa Poli grappa infused with lavender, Campari and Cynar foam. Where else to sip Italian heritage with views to Hyde Park, or partake in afternoon tea accompanied by homemade focaccia with Puglia-style grilled veg?
The Peabody Memphis, Tennessee
Peabody history dates to 1869, and since 1933 resident mallard ducks have paraded to the accompaniment of a Sousa march to splash in the lobby fountain. Jack Daniel’s distillery is home turf, but The Lobby Bar uses a Kentucky bourbon, Angel’s Envy, to make its brown-liquor version of a negroni, commonly called a boulevardier. Instead of an orange slice, Amarena cherries are the garnish.
Angad Arts Hotel, St. Louis
Located in Grand Center Arts District, this is the world’s first hotel where guests can book rooms by emotion of color. Its Grand Tavern by David Burke calls its negroni ‘To Run Italians’—a theater saying meaning a rehearsal in double-time—and builds it with top-shelf gin, Italian vermouth and Amargo-Angostura Vallet, a French liqueur made from angostura bark, cherries, cloves, roots and spices.
The Jefferson Hotel, Richmond, Virginia
Breathtaking opulence and a century of history at this downtown landmark—13 presidents, Elvis and The Rolling Stones have stayed there—make improvising on the classic unnecessary, and so its Lemaire Restaurant, which is named after the maitre d’ to Thomas Jefferson during his presidency, serves its negronis with only two variables: on the rocks or straight up.