The negroni is a cocktail of Italian origins formulated to showcase the woodsy bitterness of Campari for Count Camillo Negroni. It has gone through various permutations until the finally recipe was locked down in the 20s— one part gin, one part sweet vermouth rosso and one part Campari, and garnished with an orange peel. It’s straightforward enough, intended to be dry and perfectly balanced between bitter and sweet.

Someone once mentioned that to judge the true skill of a bartender, you should ask them to concoct a negroni. But bartenders all around have attempted to reinvent the cocktail since its inception, toying with the spirits, the garnishes, and changing up the flavour profile to mixed results, making it a bit of a shaky barometer.

In a time where the idea of the beverage has become more complex than necessary, we consult three experts to re-define how exactly one gets a good negroni.

Fabrice Mergalet, boCHINche

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Left: El Ron Negroni | Right: Fabrice Mergalet of boCHINche

What would a chef know about cocktails? The Head Chef of Argentinean restaurant boCHINche begs to differ. Given that the negroni is traditionally an apéritif, its meant to stimulate the appetite, which falls into Fabrice Mergalet’s realm of speciality. He uses flavour pairing techniques to craft boCHINche’s off-menu negroni, the El Ron, resulting in a drink that addresses one forgotten aspect of the negroni — its place at the start of a meal.

Lifestyle Asia (LSA): What is one thing bartenders overlook when it comes to making a quality negroni?

Fabrice Mergalet (FM): Proper water dilution is something not typically  paid attention to. How the drink is stirred is another crucial element because it affects the alcohol within the cocktail.

LSA: Negronis are deceptively simple, but rarely done right. Why?

FM: One common mistake that some bartenders make is trying too hard to make a negroni special. They overdo it by adding too much flair and garnishes to the drink, until it ends up neither looking nor tasting like a negroni. Negronis are one of the simplest and most straightforward cocktails so it is very important to ensure simplicity.

LSA: Negronis are traditionally made with gin. Are there other spirits that could substitute it?

FM: At boCHINche, we replace the gin with a mellow-sweet, caramel-like flavoured rum, El Ron Prohibido, which balances the bitter Campari. It pairs excellently with steak, or provoleta, which is a dish with provolone cheese, honey oregano and almonds.

LSA: Given that you work a lot with meats, how would the negroni complement a meat-focused dish?

FM: I would smoke the spirit to add a tinge of smoky flavour to the cocktail, which would blend well as either an apéritif or accompaniment to wood-smoked and grilled meats.

boCHINche is located at 115 Amoy St. #01-02, S069935, tel: +65 6235 4990.

Joe Schofield, Tippling Club

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Left: Sonic Negroni | Right: Joe Schofield of Tippling Club

Joe Schofield’s soft-spoken demeanour belies a highly experimental approach to cocktails merge with the scientific. At the Tippling Club, Schofield’s Sonic Negroni utilises ultrasonic sound to manipulate the flavours of the cocktail, giving it barrel-aged characteristics without the fuss of inconsistencies and variables. It might not be molecular mixology to a T, but it does push the brackets of what a negroni can be.

LSA: What are three qualities that make a good negroni?

Joe Schofield (JS): One large piece of block ice, good quality ingredients and an orange twist for aroma.

LSA: How can one acclimatise themselves to the bittersweet flavours of a negroni if they’re not a fan of bitter cocktails?

JS: In order to enjoy a Negroni, it takes a bit of time to get used to it. A great gateway is to use Aperol instead of Campari. You still retain a lot of the similarities, but the Aperol is also much softer.

LSA: What’s your go-to negroni recipe?

JS: Definitely the basis of our Sonic Negroni. We use 25ml Fords Gin, 25ml Campari, 12.5ml Martini Rosso and 12.5ml Cocchi Torino.

Tippling Club is located at 38 Tanjong Pagar Rd, S088461, tel: +65 6475 2217.

Kamil Foltan, Studio 1939 

what makes a good negroni studio 1939 potato head folk kamil foltan
Left: Coffee Negroni | Right: Kamil Foltan of Studio 1939

The cocktail mavericks behind Studio 1939 are fuelled by a passion for finding new approaches to ingredients and cocktails. Helmed by Kamil Foltan, they’ve disregarded the novelty of the old-cocktails-made-new trend in favour of countless reinventions. The negroni is the bar’s latest project, and they’ve launched Negroni Tuesdays, where patrons can try a dedicated negroni menu with a 1-for-1 offer. Flavours like kaya toast and coffee, coconut and chocolate-covered cherries have found their way into the traditional negroni, breathing boozy life into familiar tastes.

LSA: Why do you think the negroni is so hard to appreciate?

Kamil Foltan (KF): Consumers’ palates are continuously changing and evolving, but it remains difficult for most people to drink straight spirits unless they build up their tolerance. Unless one is constantly trying and tasting different spirits and cocktails, it can be hard to enjoy the negroni, which is essentially a mixture of spirits.

LSA:  As negronis are on the bitter end of the flavour spectrum, many cocktail novices don’t fully appreciate it. How would you convince someone to be more receptive?

KF: I strongly believe that there are many other cocktails before being able to appreciate negronis. Some great starts will be the Old Fashioned, Manhattan and Martinez. It is all about the ratio and bartenders’ full understanding on how to introduce this type of beverages to the consumers if they are not used to drinking it.

Studio 1939 is located at Potato Head Folk, 36 Keong Saik Road, Level 3, S089143, tel: +65 6327 1939.

Beatrice Bowers
Features Editor
Beatrice Bowers writes about beauty, drinks, and other nice things. When not bound to her keyboard, she moonlights as a Niffler for novels and can be found en route to bankruptcy at your nearest bookstore. Don't tell her boss.