Secrets of the perfect Negroni with Stephen Burke (Campari)

Three ingredients, and a history spanning over a century: that’s the iconic Negroni, a drink where simplicity meets perfection. To uncover the layers behind this iconic cocktail, we turned to a true connoisseur, Campari’s national brand ambassador Stephen Burke. 

Join us as Stephen sheds lights on how to mix the perfect Negroni, its storied past, and where to find the best Negroni experience in Auckland.

The Negroni has become a world-famous classic. But what makes it truly authentic and stand out from other cocktails? 

“For me, the Negroni symbolises everything great about Italian cuisine. On the surface it seems so easy to do, but it takes years of practice and the finest ingredients to truly master it. When you only have three ingredients, there is nowhere to hide. You need to find the balance between the Bitter Campari, the delectable Sweet Vermouth, and of course Gin. For a drink to have just three ingredients, remain unchanged for over 100 years and be the best-selling cocktail in the world, you can’t get much more authentic than that.”

It sure takes practice to master simplicity. What’s your recipe for the perfect Negroni?

“My perfect Negroni would use equal parts Campari, vermouth di Torino and a crisp London dry style gin. Next add up the total volume of those ingredients, and combine with a quarter of that volume in mineral water. I would let that sit chilled in the fridge for at least two days, this process of allowing the flavours to blend is essential in my book. Finally pour the cocktail over a nice big ice block, and garnish with a large slice of orange. If you’re so inclined, a small pinch of salt can help take the drink to the next level as well!”

Are there any unique twists and variants you would recommend?

“Personally I adore the two precursors to the Negroni – an Americano and a Milan Torino. Both make the perfect Aperitivo drink, and are delicious with food. A Sbagliato is also a great early evening variation. For a little later in the evening, I really enjoy a Negroni Tredici, named after the 13 bitter botanicals found in Cynar. Do the usual equal parts Negroni, then add in a touch of Cynar to give the drink a new layer of complexity.”

Can you share a bit about the story behind this cocktail?

“For me, the story of the Negroni is the story of Aperitivo in Italy. It goes all the way back to Torino and the perfection of Vermouth. This invention changed the way people interacted with each other in early caffè culture. To learn all about this revolution, a young Gaspare Campari travelled to Torino, took inspiration back with him to Milano and created Campari – the Milano Torino was invented from this marriage of two cities. American tourists didn’t like the bitter taste profile so added soda water – and the Americano was born. Next comes the foresight of one iconic individual, who decided to order an Americano with Gin instead of soda. This became so popular that people started ordering their Americano the way “The Count” ordered his. Eventually this got shortened to ordering a Negroni. For me, this one drink highlights all of the history and culture that Italy is celebrated for, and I get such a kick out of sharing that story with people.”

Finally, what are your top 5 places in Auckland to savour the best Negroni experience? 

  • Caretaker, Britomart
  • QT Rooftop, Viaduct
  • Pineapple, Parnell
  • Churchill, CBD
  • San Marco Trattoria, Wairau Valley

by Stephen Burke, Campari