Bar life Destinations Gin

In Search of the Best Negroni in Florence

100 Years of Negroni Love

Get your party hats on, it’s Negroni’s birthday year! To celebrate 100 years of my favourite cocktail I have gone around Florence in search of the best Negroni in town. (I know, it’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it!) There is a bit of a squabble around the details of who indeed invented this bright-red cocktail we all love so much, but many accept that it all took place in 1919 in Florence. It is said that Negroni was born when Count Camillo Negroni wanted to make his usual drink of choice a bit punchier by replacing soda with gin. After this, everyone started to order the ‘Count Negroni’ at Café Casoni. Fast forward 100 years and Negroni is ever more popular.

The original Negroni is made with equal parts of Campari, sweet vermouth and gin (often London Dry), but there have been many variations over the years, with ingredients varying from Mezcal to rum to Prosecco. And of course, there is White Negroni, originally made with equal parts gin, Suze and Lillet Blanc, but I find it too delicate, too floral, for my liking, so during my research I have stuck to the classic to get the best results.

Criteria

I am looking for balanced flavours between the gin, bitter (most commonly Campari) and sweet vermouth. Personally, I like the gin to be strong enough to cut through the rest of the ingredients, and it should be clearly juniper forward. I also like Negroni that has a clear bitter flavour and that is not too sweet. I have started to feel a bit like a Negroni snob after all this tasting, but it has also made very clear to me what I like and what I don’t. Obviously, there are always some fun twists on the classic, but for this article I have focused only on the classic recipe.

I have included 11 venues, but the search never really stops, as Florence has a lot to offer. I have tried a few more venues, but don’t feel they need a mention as the Negroni was not my cup of tea at all. You can find more Negroni recommendations on my Instagram account. I will keep posting there as I go along sipping Negroni in various locations.

I’ve graded each Negroni as per below;

1 Not my cup of Negroni
2 Needs improvement
3 It’s fine, but is fine enough for you?
4 Now you’re talking
5 Ultimate Negroni love

The venues in no particular order:

1 Locale

Locale is a stunning bar in the centre of Florence, but it is also very expensive. A Negroni here will set you back €20. You will be served a selection of small nibbles to go with the drink if you order one during aperitivo hours. As we had just had dinner, they offered us a few pieces of homemade chocolate instead. The service here was excellent.

Their Negroni is made with Tanqueray N10, Vermouth Rosso della Regina and Campari. I tried the vermouth on its own, where it had a lovely rich and fruity flavour, but in a Negroni it took away from the bitterness of the Campari and made the cocktail a bit too sweet for my liking. Overall, the drink was nice but didn’t rock my Negroni world. For that price tag I was hoping for fireworks.

The verdict: 3 – It’s fine, but is fine enough for you?

Negroni Florence

2 Drogheria Bar & Grill

I’ve always liked this venue for their giant salads and burgers and outdoor seating on the square, but during my recent visit, I felt the quality of the food and drinks weren’t up to their usual standards.

Their Negroni was made with Campari, Martini Rosso and Bosford Gin, which I hadn’t even heard of until that moment. The cocktail didn’t work for me at all as the gin was way too weak (37.5% ABV) to stand up to the strong flavours of the Campari and Martini Rosso. If I was to have a Negroni here in the future, I’d make sure to ask for a different gin.

The verdict: 2 – Needs improvement

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

3 La Ménagère

This venue is beautiful. During the day it works as a café/bistro, but they also have a restaurant with an à la carte menu. There’s a flower shop and even a live music venue in the same space. I especially enjoy this venue when I manage to get a seat on the sofas, as even during the busier nights you don’t feel so crammed and you can just sit back and people watch.

Negroni at La Ménagère is made with Bombay Sapphire, Martini bitter and Martini Rubino vermouth. Currently, this Negroni is my favourite of all the ones I’ve tried in Florence so far. It’s a well-balanced classic with a beautiful bright-red colour. I use Martini Rubino vermouth when I make Negronis at home, and I like its full-bodied and fruity flavour. The only disappointment is that the venue gets so busy during the summer months I hardly visit, but for winter, this is your place if you are looking for a great Negroni in stunning surroundings.

The verdict: 5 – Ultimate Negroni love

Negroni La Menagere

4 Inferno Lounge Bar

An Italian friend of mine recommended this venue last year so I’ve visited a few times when in the neighbourhood, especially when they’ve had some live music on. I’ve had decent cocktails here before, but unfortunately my Negroni was very lemony. They used Bankes Gin, which I’ve not had before, but it seems this gin is quite citrusy and not suitable for Negroni. They also used Campari and Martini Rosso.

If you visit Inferno, I recommend you try another cocktail or at least ask for a different gin. They have a nice selection of spirits, so I guess the house serves are the ones to avoid.

The verdict: 1 – Not my cup of Negroni

Negroni cocktail

5 Fusion Bar

Fusion Bar is a hotel bar, but they also have a comfy covered outdoor seating area. This is a bit more high-end, and cocktails start from €14; however, they have a happy hour between 5 and 7pm when all cocktails are €10.

Fusion Bar is supposed to be one of the best cocktail bars in Florence and is always hosting various industry events. Their Negroni was huge (yay!!) and made with Bombay Dry Gin, Cocchi Vermouth di Torino and Campari. It was a very good Negroni, but didn’t beat the one I had a La Ménagère.

The verdict: 4 – Now you’re talking

Fusion bar

6 Negroni Bar

Unfortunately, this bar is not as good as it used to or should be. They still have a selection of Negronis, but the recipes aren’t as good. For example, their classic serve used to be made with Beefeater Gin, Carpano Classico and Campari. Today, it has Gordon’s Gin, which in my opinion is not a great choice for Negroni as it is only 37.5% ABV and a tad too citrusy. But if you like White Negroni, you’ll enjoy their take on this, made with local gin Peter in Florence (don’t get me started on the name…).

I also recommend the aperitivo (€10) here. The choices are limited, but everything they served was very tasty. As I need to rate based on the classic Negroni, the score won’t be high, but you might still want to give this venue a chance based on the other variations. If you’d like find out more about their Negroni menu head over to my IGTV for a two part Negroni video.

The verdict: 2 – Needs improvement

7 Mercato Centrale

I didn’t have high hopes for this venue as it is an indoor food market with a bar, but it turns out they have a special Negroni menu with a few options to choose from. Their Negroni was pretty much the same as at La Ménagère, but with Beefeater Gin. I was very pleased to see they used my fav Martini Rubino vermouth!

The verdict: 5 – Ultimate Negroni love

8 PanicAle

A nice little cocktail and craft beer bar to visit after you’ve had dinner at Mercato Centrale. It is located literally opposite the market, although it can be hard to find when the leather markets are still on. They have tables outside as well, making it a great place for people watching.

I usually like their selection of cocktails but found the Negroni a bit disappointing (I’m definitely becoming a Negroni snob!) as they used Bankes Gin. I read somewhere that Bankes Gin was created with Negroni in mind, but in my opinion, it is too citrusy. They also used Cinzano vermouth and Campari. It was ok, but I’m likely to order something else next time.

The verdict: 2 – Needs improvement

Negroni by the market

9 Oggi

Like many others on this list, Oggi is a cocktail bar that is part of a restaurant. It’s a beautiful venue with skilled bartenders. Cocktails are delicious and not overpriced, about €10.

My Negroni was made with Campari, Punt e Mes and Beefeater 24. Punt e Mes is quite juicy and sweet, but the Negroni was still very enjoyable. Also, it was presented in a fun way so I can’t help but give it some extra points just for that. I was given a glass full of ice with lovely garnish, including a piece of chocolate, and a mini skull bottle full of Negroni. When I poured the cocktail over the garnish, it released a bit of the chocolate aroma into the drink, which worked so well with the fruitier profile of this serve.

The verdict: 5 – Ultimate Negroni love

Skull Negroni

10 Habitat

I had to add this venue on the list last minute as I only just discovered it and it is definitely worth the mention. Habitat is a lovely little bar/café and it is open all day. The reason I wanted to include Habitat is their unique Negroni’s. Most of the venues are using basic ingredients so Habitat really stood out for me with their two variations. The classic is made with local Tuscan brands; Sabatini Gin, Bolgheri Rosso and Bitter Taccola as well as a touch of bitter al coriandolo (coriander bitters). White Negroni (or should it be called Mediterranean Negroni?) is made with Gin Mare, Macchia Vermouth Mediterraneo Bianco and Biancosarti. Hands up if you’ve heard about these bitters and vermouths!? Bolgheri Rosso is actually a red wine and not a vermouth at all! It’s lovely to find something different amongst the classics.

I find it hard to describe this Negroni as it’s very different to what I’m used to. It lacks a bit of body and it has a slight purple hue. Sabatini Gin (41.3% ABV) is made with nice Tuscan botanicals; juniper, coriander, iris, fennel, lavender, olive leaves, thyme, verbena and sage. In the Negroni you can taste both herbal and floral notes in a lovely balanced way. A very interesting Negroni – I will definitely go back to try it again!

The verdict: 4 – Now you’re talking

Wine Negroni

11 Manifattura

Manifattura is a cute little bar where they focus a lot on Italian products and bitter-style drinks. They also have a range of amaro-based cocktails on the menu. The service was friendly, and the barmen looked very smart in their white shirts, waistcoats and aprons.

The Negroni was nice, but maybe a bit too weak for what I’m used to. It wasn’t quite as bitter and punchy as I’d like, but still nice on its own terms. Unfortunately, it’s been a while since I last visited and amongst all this Negroni imbibing I have managed to misplace my notes (I know, I know!). But don’t you worry, I will go back soon enough and update this article with the ingredients used.

The verdict: 4 – Now you’re talking

On the Sauce Again

Overall

I was very surprised to see the lack of variety in gins used for Negroni. Unfortunately, some of the house gins aren’t always strong enough to complement the overall cocktail. Somehow, I was expecting more variety on the products used.

There are many venues still to be tested, but so far, I have found a few venues where I can safely go for a Negroni and know it will be just the way I like it!

My top 3 – La Ménagère, Mercato Centrale and Oggi

What is your favourite Negroni recipe? 

Advertisements

Share your thoughts!