Forget everything you know about the Negroni. This slightly bitter, aperitif-style classic that was invented roughly a century ago in Italy is getting remade and rethought by the brightest bartenders in Buenos Aires, where all good Italian things eventually get their moment in the sun.
“There is a huge tradition in drinking vermouth, fernet, amaro, and every aperitif in Buenos Aires,” says Martin Auzmendi, the organizer of Buenos Aires Cocktail Week. “So every cocktail bar here should serve a Negroni.”
Now the drink is developing multiple personalities in the Argentine capital, as connoisseurs increasingly veer from the traditional script of orange-garnished Campari, gin, and vermouth.
Global bartenders seem to be taking note, too: entire Negroni menus are popping up in bars from New York City's Dante to Bar Termini in London. But nowhere is the trend as prominently on display as it is in Buenos Aires.
“The Negroni is simple and complex,” Auzmendi explained. “It gives bartenders the opportunity to make a signature version in a way consumers still understand.”
Here, the most interesting twists to seek out in B.A. – or to riff on at home –from floral, to intense, to smoky.
Owner Guillermo Blumenkamp has a no-beer-allowed rule at his innovative (if bare bones) San Telmo cocktail den, making it a bartender’s favorite in Buenos Aires.
Of his four different Negronis, The First is the most exciting: It adds sparkling white wine, red fruits, jalapeño, and balsamic bitters to the holy trinity of gin, campari, and vermouth. The end result is nuanced, with a spicy finish.
The Park Hyatt’s old-world bar – with its beautifully carved wood doors and handsome leather chairs – offers an entire Negroni menu with eight distinct concoctions.
Some turn the drink on its head by subbing out the gin for something totally different, such as tequila.
But Solera No. 3 nods to Argentina’s winemaking prowess, adding Soleria (a sweet Torrontés wine) to balance out the bitter Campari and dry gin.
At this speakeasy in Palermo, owner Daniel Biber makes an aged Negroni with rosewater-infused Bombay Sapphire, Aperol, and herbal Martini Bianco.
It’s a rethink of a famous, decade-old recipe by renowned mixologist (and Hendrick’s ambassador) Charlotte Voisey, tweaked to feature locally available ingredients and batched in glass bottles for 30 days to produce a sweet but fresh flavor.
When this decadent restaurant and bar behind and below a flower shop appeared in 2013 in the leafy and affluent Retiro neighborhood, it opened the local mixology scene to an international audience; suddenly people far and wide were buzzing about the sharp, complex drinks in Buenos Aires.
The Negroni Balestrini is one of its more iconic offerings. Co-founder Tato Giovannoni distills his own gin with yerba mate and adds seawater and smoked eucalyptus leaves for an intense, briny end product. It's one of many reasons the place consistently ranks among the World’s 50 Best Bars.
Of course, this cozy, months-old bar in Recoleta has the Negroni front and center: Owner Seba Garcia is an ambassador for Campari.
Like many of his drinks, the Negroni del Sur marries international flavors and authentically Argentine ingredients (think homemade vermouth plus Malbec, spiced with anise, cloves, cardamom, and cinnamon).
Also neat: The gin Garcia uses is macerated with cedrón, a South American plant similar to verbena. The recipe is below.
Negroni del Sur
- 1 oz. Campari
- 1 oz. gin macerated with cedrón
- 1 oz. spiced Malbec from Mendoza
- 1 oz. sweet vermouth
- Garnish: grapefruit skin, cedrón flower
How to prepare the wine and gin: Empty a fourth of a bottle of gin and fill it back to the top with fresh cedrón. Leave to macerate in a cool place for a few days—the result should be a gin that has an aroma of citrus and a gentle flavor of cedrón.
For the spiced wine, bring a liter of Malbec (or some other young and fruity wine) to a low simmer, add 100 grams of sugar, 20 grams of cardamom, 50 grams of cinnamon, 2 stars of anise, and 1 clove. Cook 10 minutes without boiling. Rest. Filter and bottle up.