A traditional Negroni contains Gin, Campari, and Sweet Vermouth. The dark ruby color is an essential characteristic of the drink. And the same goes for Campari and Vermouth. But almost 20 years ago, at Vinexpo 2001 in Bordeaux, Wayne Collins created a totally new version – the white Negroni.
His trendy twist on the classic aperitif cocktail even made it into „The PDT Cocktail Book“ by Jim Meehan and the „3-ingredient Cocktails“ book by Robert Simonson. So let’s see what it is about this drink and how it came to life.
History of the White Negroni
As mentioned, Wayne Collins invented this cocktail while attending Vinexpo in Bordeaux. He went there to take part in an international Cocktail Competition. He was traveling together with Nico Blacknell, back then director of Plymouth Gin.
The day before the contest, they roamed local liquor markets to get ingredients to create some Negronis. Collins decided to go for French ingredients, and so they chose Suze and Lillet Blanc as replacements for Campari and Sweet Vermouth. The Gin part obviously was covered by Plymouth Gin, which they had plenty of back at their guest house.
But the White Negroni was by no means an instant hit. It took quite some time for the aperitif Cocktail to be recognized. Collins tried to promote the drink, but many bars simply didn’t carry Suze or Lillet Blanc. And they didn’t plan on doing so any time soon either. So he tried to grow its popularity organically and order it himself over and over again.
The first big success of the White Negroni was when the famous Pegu Club in NYC listed it on their menu. Because Suze was not available in the United States, the gentian Liqueur had to be smuggled in until 2012. Pernod Ricard then finally decided to legally import Suze to the US, marking the beginning of the rise of the White Negroni.
It quickly became one of the most famous twists on the classic Italian cocktail. With the help of Pegu Staff member Jim Meehan, who mentioned it in “The PDT Cocktail Book,“ the recipe spread even faster. When released in 2011, this book was one of the main reasons why the drink finally gained enough attention.
Ingredients of a White Negroni
A classic Negroni consists of Campari, Sweet Vermouth, and Gin. The first two ingredients were replaced by French substitutes, as already mentioned above. But what are these two, and how do they taste? So let’s have a look at Suze and Lillet Blanc.
Suze is a pleasingly bitter gentian aperitif made of yellow gentian roots. Those roots are pretty common in France and Switzerland. The French apéritif is used in a great range of french digestif cocktails. Its taste is best described as very vegetal, almost like eating dandelion. But it also has citrus notes, like Pomelo.
As a replacement for sweet Vermouth, Collins decided to choose Lillet Blanc: A fortified and aromatized Bordeaux wine made of grapes from the regions of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Muscadelle. But Lillet Blanc is not a Vermouth. It just is similar to Vermouth and works perfectly with Suze. Its taste is close to a crisp white wine with sweet components, complemented by fresh orange and spring flower flavors.
White Negroni Recipe
Measuring here is as simple as with a classic Negroni. Wayne collins decided to go with equal parts, and I also think this is the best way to enjoy it. For the Gin part, I prefer Rutte Dry Gin. But of course, you can experiment with it or go with the original version and use Plymouth Gin.
- 1 oz Gin traditionally Plymouth Gin
- 1 oz Lillet Blanc
- 1 oz Suze
- Add all ingredients to a mixing glass. Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail coupe.
- Add Grapefruit twist as garnish.