The White Negroni is a twist on the classic, replacing the Italian Amari with French liqueur and fortified wine.
A traditional Negroni contains Gin, Campari, and Sweet Vermouth. The dark ruby color of those two ingredients is an essential characteristic of the drink.
But almost 20 years ago, at Vinexpo 2001 in Bordeaux, Wayne Collins created a totally new version - the white Negroni - a French counterpart to the Italian classic.
So let's see what it is about this drink and how it came to life.
Ingredients of a White Negroni
The White Negroni recipe replaces Campari and Sweet Vermouth, the dark and bittersweet components, with the yellowish beverages 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 part of various french digestif cocktails. Its taste can best be described as very vegetal, almost like eating dandelion. But it also has citrus notes, like Pomelo.
As a replacement for sweet Vermouth, Collins chose Lillet Blanc: A fortified and aromatized Bordeaux wine made of grapes from Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Muscadelle.
Lillet Blanc is not a Vermouth but is similar to it 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.
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 and was traveling with Nico Blacknell, back then director of Plymouth Gin.
A cocktail for a competition
The day before the contest, they roamed local liquor stores to get ingredients to create a Negroni riff. 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 by mixologists.
Collins did try to promote the drink straight away, but many bars didn't carry Suze or Lillet Blanc. And, as it turned out, neither did they plan on doing so any time soon. Hence, he tried to grow its popularity organically and order his creation himself - over and over again.
Bringing the drink ito the US
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.
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 favor 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.1 oz Gin, 1 oz Lillet Blanc, 1 oz Suze
- Add Grapefruit twist as garnish.