In Search Of The Best Negroni
In Search Of The Best Negroni

The Negroni had its moment in the sun recently on account of a viral video featuring House of The Dragon stars Emma D’Arcy and Olivia Cooke. But this writer has been a fan of the drink for much longer

A classic Negroni should be easy to make because it’s equal parts gin, vermouth and Campari, garnished with an orange peel. But it is more challenging than you think. You’d be surprised by how many bad ones I’ve had. They either have too much Campari — making it very bitter — too much vermouth or the wrong brand (I prefer the Martini & Rossi Extra Dry Vermouth) and you will end up with a very strong licorice taste, of which I’m not a fan. 


If a Negroni lacks the right amount of gin, the balance is lost. Not adding orange zest at the end practically destroys the Negroni. The garnish lifts the orange notes of the Vermouth Rosso, which gives it that freshness on the nose and palate.  


And lastly, I can’t emphasize this enough: adding chipped ice does grave injustice to a Negroni. Ice dilutes and destroys this indulgence of a cocktail. So, absolutely no ice. The clearer, the better. 


With all these stringent, self-imposed preconditions it is not surprising that I have found very few places across the country that serve a good Negroni. Luckily, I am in a job which involves a fair bit of travel and every opportunity I get, I make it a point to passionately seek out bars in the city for my favourite cocktail. On the occasion of International Negroni Week (18-24 September), here are a few that made the grade: 




My favourite Negroni in Bengaluru is at Kaze, located at the corner of Lavelle Road on the 21st floor of a skyscraper, from where one can enjoy a panoramic view of the city, its high-rises, gardens, Sri Kanteerava Stadium and the Bangalore Club. Kaze is a great place to watch the sun go down while sipping a good cocktail. They use the classic recipe to make Negronis, but what makes them stand out is the perfect balance they are able to achieve between the three main ingredients every time.  



In another part of Bengaluru, Sarath Nair (alternatively known as The Travelling Shaker on Instagram) and his team at Copitas, the bar at the Four Seasons Hotel, also make a good variation. Theirs is an off-the-menu Clay Pot Aged Negroni. Stored in a terracotta pot for 48 hours, the first scent that hits your nose is the smell of the first rain; as for the palate, it helps bring out a familiar earthy flavour. The earthiness of the aged liquid gives it a more textured mouthfeel. Note, this one doesn’t come with the orange garnish on purpose to retain the base flavour. 




My trip to Delhi led me to Pass Code Only (PCO), what I can only describe as a hidden gem disguised as a random independent building in Delhi on the outside. It requires a password to gain entry. As you enter, you’re immersed in a clandestine drinking den popular in the style of the Prohibition era speakeasies in the US. It was a Sunday night, and I had no idea what to expect. After a few exchanges of flavour preferences and spirit choices, I was served the Truffle Negroni by Vikas Kumar, the bartender who also goes by the name of Mixologist for Life on social media. As Vikas explained, his chef at PDA, where he used to work earlier, made regular truffle trips to Italy, and Vikas gladly accepted the shavings for his cocktail menu. 



Two things made it stand out compared to a few others I’ve had (after trying this one). First, the truffle oil quality and freshness, which blended into the beverage well and, at the same time, wasn’t too overpowering on the nose. The second and more important observation was that it was slightly Campari-forward. Why did it make such a significant difference? Because the bitterness of the Campari cuts the lingering truffle flavour on your palate, making you want to go in for that second, third, and fourth sip — always trying to catch or retain the umami flavour. It had the right nose, taste, and palate. A must-have if you’re ever in the city.  


PS: Also try their excellent Boulevardier, a Negroni variation where Bourbon replaces the gin.  




My latest adventure took me to Native Bombay, which houses India’s first Negroni-only bar. Here I was introduced to the Marmite Negroni. It took me back to a childhood memory of a few weeks spent in London, where Nutella took a back seat to Marmite, an awfully salty topping added to toast. I’ve never understood it. Despite not being a fan of Marmite, it was a big yes for this Negroni. I was blown away by the perfect balance of flavour achieved by infusing Marmite with Rosso. Marmite’s usually pungent and overpowering flavour added a lot of savoury notes to the Negroni and complemented it brilliantly.  


Marmite is a pungent, sticky, dark brown paste with a distinctive, salty, powerful flavour. It took the bar team, they told me, a whole month to find the perfect balance of flavour (they revealed the ratio to me, but on the condition that I don’t mention it. But trust me, it must have taken a lot of trial and error to get it right). And if you want to get an additional Marmite fix, they even coat a cracker with it and use it as a garnish. Have it before it turns soggy. 



Native Bombay is located in a former ice factory in South Mumbai’s Ballard Estate area. The bar’s industrial aesthetic enhances the aged wire-cut brick appearance. The seating is also small and intimate, making it a cosy spot for enjoying the flavours of a Negroni.  


I’m yet to try the Negroni Sbagliato at an Indian bar though. Sbagliato is ‘mistake’ in Italian, and refers to the fact that the cocktail came into existence when an Italian bartender mistakenly used sparkling wine for gin. It is light, and in my book, a great drink for a hot summer afternoon. The drink achieved worldwide fame following a recent viral video featuring House of Dragon stars Emma D’Arcy and Olivia Cooke discussing the merits of using Proseco. I have also tried making the cocktail at home with various sparkling wines, and I agree with D’Arcy that Proseco works the best.  

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