14 Dos And Don'ts Of Ordering A Negroni

When it comes to ordering a drink, sometimes it's worth doing more than simply stating your boozy beverage of choice and hoping for the best. This rings especially true when you're ordering a sophisticated, classic cocktail like a Negroni. While you can't go wrong with asking nicely and ordering with a smile, there are a few key strategies you can employ to ensure you receive your drink the way you like it, boost your confidence, and impress your fellow drinkers.

From understanding the ingredients that constitute this bitter beverage (gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth) to recognizing what kinds of swaps are appropriate to ask for, there are plenty of things you should keep in mind when you're craving a Negroni. Plus, having some basic Negroni knowledge under your belt can help you make your own tasty version at home. Brushing up on a few ordering dos and don'ts will make both you and the bartender's lives easier, so read on to learn how to sound like you know your way around this delicious (albeit polarizing) cocktail.

Do: Brace yourself for bitterness

If you don't like bitter beverages, we advise you to steer clear of this cocktail. Negronis get their signature bite from Campari, which is an Italian aperitif that's teeming with complex, bracing botanical flavors. Though the drink does contain a measure of sweet vermouth to help round out the overall flavor, bitterness is still the first thing you're going to notice.

Now, Negronis have scores of die-hard fans out there, but if you've never had a cocktail that's heavy on Campari, you might be in for an unpleasant surprise. While we happen to love its boozy complexity, we can also appreciate the fact that many people think a Negroni tastes like something you'd drink to cure a cold in the middle ages rather than the classic cocktail that it really is.

That being said, people's preferences can change, and tastes can be acquired, so don't give up on Negronis altogether if you've only ever tried a sip. Just brace yourself for bitterness and don't order one if you're in the mood for something sweet (or light, or low ABV).

Don't: Order one just because it's trendy

Like we said, Negronis aren't for everyone. We'd even go as far as saying that they're one of the most polarizing mainstream cocktails in existence. Despite the "love it or hate it" nature of this drink, many people fall into the trap of ordering one because they think it sounds cool, looks pretty, or makes them seem sophisticated. While we can't deny that in our opinion, a Negroni accomplishes all of the above, it's still the wrong way to go about ordering a drink.

As much as we encourage branching out, please don't blindly order a cocktail unless you're willing to accept the risk that you might hate it. If a bartender messes up your drink, then it's totally acceptable to send it back and ask for a replacement. However, if you order a Negroni because you think the name has a nice ring to it, you don't have the grounds to send it back just because you rolled the dice and lost.

Do: Specify if you'd like it served up

Most of the time, bartenders in the U.S. will automatically default to serving Negronis on the rocks. However, some people like this tasty libation served up (which means in a stemmed glass without ice), so you need to let them know if that's what you're looking for.

There's no right or wrong way to drink a Negroni, so this choice is all about personal preference. Opting for a Negroni on the rocks means your drink will stay colder, but you will get a little extra dilution since the inherent booziness of a Negroni makes it a sipper that lends itself to being savored slowly. If you like your Negroni served up, your drink will have a more consistent flavor but a less consistent temperature (since again, you shouldn't be drinking this cocktail too quickly). If you're not sure how you like your Negronis, the only way to find out is to try one of each. Once you've picked a side, just remember to specify if you're on team "up."

Don't: Ask for it to be shaken

A useful bartender hack to remember is that drinks that don't contain citrus juice shouldn't be shaken — and Negronis don't contain a single drop. A quick stir over ice is all this beverage needs to attain the perfect temperature and level of dilution. Some people like to break the rules and ask for martinis to be shaken (even though they don't contain juice, either), but please don't try this with a Negroni. Trust us, most bartenders internally cringe when people request beverages that are meant to be stirred to be shaken, so please spare them the pain of having to over-dilute and over-aerate this delicate beverage. 

There's a lot of science behind the art of making drinks, so just sit back and let the bartender do their thing. If you order a Negroni and see the bartender shaking your drink, you should probably take that as a sign to switch to a beer. 

Do: Select your gin

This one isn't a "must" per say, but gins vary widely in terms of flavor. Since gin makes up a third of a Negroni, the variety you select can make a big difference. If there's a specific style or brand you're looking for, you need to let the bartender know before they start making your drink.

If you don't know your sloe gin from your London dry, you can always ask the person behind the stick to help guide you. While the gin you choose doesn't need to be expensive, we recommend avoiding the super cheap stuff. A Negroni is a classy cocktail that deserves mid-tier liquor, at least.

If you aren't confident enough in your gin knowledge to ask for something specific, you can take comfort in the fact that most bars and restaurants that have a Negroni on the menu will typically use a nice base spirit right off the bat. This all comes down to personal preference, so the best gin for a Negroni for some, may not ring true for others. 

Do: Think beyond gin

A traditional Negroni is made with gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth, but you can swap out the gin for another spirit if you prefer. We love requesting a mezcal Negroni, since the smokiness of the mezcal adds a unique layer of flavor and plays well with the bitterness of the Campari. Mezcal Negronis (and Negronis in general) are a favorite amongst the restaurant industry crowd, so your bartender will probably be impressed if you order this variation.

Bourbon is another delicious option, since the sweetness and prominent notes of caramel make this cocktail slightly more approachable. However, it's important to remember that this variation is called a Boulevardier. We promise you'll sound like you know what you're doing if you order one of these by name (bonus points if you can pronounce it correctly).

While some people branch out even further with their choice of base spirit, we recommend sticking to the two options above. Trust us, a Negroni made with vodka isn't most people's idea of a good time.

Don't: Underestimate the ABV

We'll start by stating the (hopefully) obvious with this one: You should stay on top of your alcohol consumption no matter what you're drinking. With this piece of advice in mind, you should also remember that Negronis are made from 100% boozy ingredients. Even a cocktail that's as sophisticated as a Negroni can still lead to questionable behavior and a miserable next morning if you overdo it, so it's wise to stick to your limits.

The good thing about Negronis is unlike a beverage that's designed to mask the taste of alcohol, this drink lets those spirits shine. In contrast to that deceptively light, fruity punch you used to throw back your senior year of college, Negronis aren't shy about their booziness. At the end of the day, whether you're sipping on a Negroni or a Long Island Iced Tea, the effects of alcohol can still be dangerous, so always imbibe with caution.

Do: Try a variation

This is more of an expert-level tip, but you can ask for the Campari in your Negroni to be swapped out for another bitter element of your choosing. Opting for Cynar, for example, is an excellent way to amp up the herbaceous flavors in this cocktail. You might be wondering: what is Cynar? We're here to tell you that it's an Italian digestivo that's made from artichokes (yes, really) — and it's delicious in a Negroni. Cynar is admittedly somewhat of an acquired taste, but so is a Negroni, after all.

There are also a plethora of bitter, Campari-like aperitifs that have become increasingly popular in recent years, so if you see something like Contratto Bitter, Cappelletti Aperitivo Americano Rosso, or St. Agrestis Inferno Bitter Aperitivo on the backbar, by all means, ask the bartender to use it in place of the Campari in your next Negroni. Plenty of bars also put riffs on Negronis that incorporate unique flavor elements on the menu, so don't hesitate to order the house specialty, either. 

Don't: Ask for a double

Negronis are delicious because they're balanced. Asking for a double would ruin the thoughtful proportions that make this cocktail work. You can't just throw in an extra shot and expect the drink to retain its tasty integrity. Most bartenders will flat-out say no if you request a "double Negroni" anyways, so you're better off saving your breath.

Cocktails that contain plenty of non-alcoholic ingredients (like a mojito, a margarita, or even a simple gin and tonic) can stand up to an extra measure of liquor. Cocktails that only contain alcoholic ingredients (like a Negroni) cannot.

Not to mention, we think it's much more enjoyable to savor a second Negroni in all its unique complexity than it is to find a way to pack in as much booze as you can into a single beverage. We're not here to judge if you really want to catch a buzz, but just order a shot on the side and leave your Negroni alone!

Don't: Use a straw

Don't get us wrong, we love (eco-friendly!) straws as much as anyone, but we do not recommend using one for a Negroni. For one, Negronis are meant to be sipped and savored — not slurped. The whole purpose of a straw is to make drinking easier, so you'll probably find yourself downing drinks much faster if you use one.

You'll also miss out on a good deal of the herbaceous aromas in a Negroni if you use a straw. The straw keeps your beverage farther away from your nose, and since scent plays an important role in your perception of flavor, your Negroni won't taste as good if you can't smell it.

Finally, people tend to stir the ice in their drink around with a straw, which adds too much dilution. All of this is to say that if a bartender serves your Negroni with a straw, don't use it.

Do: Try a Negroni Sbagliato

If you pay attention to beverage trends, you probably already know that the Negroni Sbagliato had a bit of a moment on the internet. Yes, the viral video was great, but this beverage is more than just a fad. A classic Negroni Sbagliato recipe uses Prosecco instead of the standard gin. The result is a beverage that's effervescent, layered, and much lighter than the original. It's an ideal beverage to enjoy on a patio on a sunny day while enjoying a few aperitivo-appropriate snacks (more to come on the snacks front, later). A Sbagliato is usually served over ice, and it's a more voluminous drink than the original.

One thing to note is that you don't need to say "Negroni Sbagliato" when you order this beverage. Simply saying you'd like a "Sbagliato ” will suffice (and make you sound like you know your Italian beverages).

Don't: Squeeze orange juice into your drink

There are essentially two options out there when it comes to the garnish for a Negroni: an orange slice or an orange twist. If you receive the former, resist the urge to squeeze the orange juice into your drink. A well-made Negroni already contains everything it needs, so adding even a small squeeze of OJ will throw your drink out of balance. We know it's tempting, but just leave it alone on the rim of your glass.

You can definitely enjoy the orange slice as a fruity, citrusy snack alongside your beverage, or you can just appreciate the pop of color and visual interest this garnish provides. You should also feel free to specifically ask the bartender to garnish your beverage with a twist rather than an orange slice if you prefer. We think an orange twist is the better option here since bartenders will express the oils over the surface of the drink, but every bartender has their own ideas about what should provide the finishing touch to a Negroni.

Do: Order a Negroni before a meal

Negronis are great as a pre-dinner drink since they're known to stimulate your appetite. Consider ordering one for happy hour before a meal or as a sipper while you wait for your table to be ready at your favorite Italian restaurant. It's hard not to enjoy your dinner when you pre-game it with a Negroni!

We highly recommend trying one with a few light bites or salty snacks for an aperitivo hour that will make you feel like you took a trip to Positano. Potato chips, nuts, breadsticks, cured meats, and cheeses all work wonderfully with Negronis. The cocktail acts as a natural segue to a nice bottle of Italian wine, and you can end your meal with a traditional digestive.

One of our favorite things about Negronis is the ritual that surrounds their consumption, so don't forget to take a moment to be grateful for your tasty beverage, as well as for the good food and great company with which you enjoy it.

Do: Be aware of your surroundings

We don't need to tell you that there's a world of difference between a grungy dive and upscale cocktail bar. Both types of drinking institutions serve their purpose, but it's always important to keep your surroundings in mind when you order. Just like ordering a beer and a shot might feel out of place at a bar that uses spherical ice cubes, makes their own bitters, and charges $20 for a cocktail, ordering a Negroni at a bar that serves drinks in plastic cups doesn't make a whole lot of sense, either.

There are a plethora of reasons why your environment matters when you're trying to decide if a Negroni is the way to go. A true dive bar might not stock Campari. A packed college bar might be too busy for the bartender to dedicate the time needed to make drinks that require care and attention. A wine bar might not have liquor at all. Exercise some common sense and remember that context is often everything.