More than 20 years ago, at Vinexpo 2001 in Bordeaux, London flair bartender Wayne Collins created a totally new version of the popular aperitif cocktail. His White Negroni is a French counterpart to the Italian classic, made with gin, Suze, and Lillet.
Quick Facts White Negroni
- Method: stirred
- Flavor profile: boozy, dry, herbaceous
- How to serve it: over ice
- Best glassware: rocks glass
- Alcohol content: ~ 21.5% ABV, 19 grams of alcohol per serving
So let's see how you best make this bright version and how it came to life.
- 1 Mixing glass
- 1 Jigger
- 1 Bar spoon
- 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.
Ingredients of a White Negroni
The White Negroni recipe replaces Campari and sweet vermouth, the dark and bittersweet components, with the lighter Suze and Lillet Blanc. Only the gin and the measurements remain the same - Collins decided to stick to the equal parts approach:
- Gin: I like to use Rutte Dry Gin. However, the original recipe calls for Plymouth Gin. Both work excellently, but, of course, you can go with your favorite brands. The recipe of the White Negroni is a great base to get experimental with the gin base.
- Suze: a pleasantly bitter aperitif made of yellow gentian roots. Those roots are pretty common in France and Switzerland. Its taste can best be described as very vegetal, almost like eating dandelion. But it also has citric notes of Pomelo.
- Lillet Blanc: 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 tastes like a crisp white wine with more sweetness, complemented by fresh orange and spring flower flavors.
The number one most important thing when making a White Negroni is to chill all ingredients adequately while making sure that you don't water it down by using too much ice.
For this, you best keep all ingredients in the fridge before mixing your cocktail. When it's time for preparation, stir all ingredients in a mixing glass full of ice cubes. Stir for 20 to 25 seconds to achieve the ideal level of dilution from the melted ice.
Strain all ingredients into a rocks glass with one large, fresh, and ideally clear quality chunk of ice, and garnish your White Negorni with a lemon peel.
One more pro tip: Twist and squeeze your lemon peel while holding it over your drink before you discard it. That releases essential oils that will make your cocktail beautifully fragrant.
The White Negroni itself is already a variation of one of the most classy cocktail recipes. A dark ruby-colored traditional Negroni contains gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth. Other sensational variations of the Italian aperitivo are:
But there are many more worth trying. For a more exhaustive overview, check out these Negroni variations.
History of the White Negroni
As mentioned earlier, Wayne Collins invented this cocktail while attending Vinexpo in Bordeaux. He went there to partake in an international cocktail competition and was traveling with Nico Blacknell, who, back then, was director of Plymouth Gin.
The day before the contest, they roamed local liquor stores to get ingredients to create a Negroni riff. Collins wanted to showcase French ingredients and chose Suze and Lillet Blanc to substitute 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. Even though Collins promoted it heavily, many bars simply didn't carry Suze or Lillet Blanc. And, as it turned out, neither did they plan on doing so any time soon.
Thus, he tried to grow its popularity organically and order his creation himself - over and over again. Eventually, this paid off.
The Drink That Brought Suze to the US
The first big success of the White Negroni was when the famous Pegu Club in NYC listed it on their menu. However, Suze was not available in the United States, so the gentian Liqueur had to be smuggled in until 2012.
2012 Pernod Ricard 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 his bestseller The PDT Cocktail Book, the recipe spread even faster. When released in 2011, this book was one of the main reasons the drink finally gained enough attention.