Who invented the white Negroni?
white negroni cocktail

Just a technicality – what exactly is a Negroni?

The birth of the White Negroni, is actually the story of a traditional Negroni, with a strange twist of circumstance and necessity.

The Negroni is a 1920’s cafe favourite cocktail, hailing from Italy that took the world by storm. The original Negroni was a fashionable and stylish cocktail, a light and easy to drink aperitif with a distinctive red colour. It is made from equal parts of three simple ingredients, namely gin (as spirit base), Campari and sweet vermouth.

Negronis work best with mild gin, or for a more intense taste, a botanical variety of gin. Campari possesses bitter notes, but if you dislike the flavour consider Cynar, Cardamaro or Aperol. The vermouth gives the cocktail a sweet and rounded edge which you can exchange for a fortified wine such as sherry or port.

For a more classic approach, you can simplify your Negroni by using other citrus fruits such as kumquat, a sprig of rosemary or add a gentle fizz by adding 30 ml of sparkling wine.

So far it all sounds fairly simple and straightforward, right? But who exactly invented a white Negroni?

A case of making do with what you have

The White Negroni was not so much an invention of creativity, but rather the result of having to make do with what you have. The story goes that Nick Blacknell, then the director of Plymouth Gin, was travelling from England to France (Bordeaux to be precise) to attend the 2011 Vinexpo, a spirits exhibition.

He was accompanied by London bartender Wayne Collins who was there to compete in the Drinks International cocktail competition. They settled into a guesthouse in Médoc, the day before the event.

Médoc, a small town, wrapped in the blazing summer sun, had Blacknell craving an ice-cold Negroni; but with no promising bars in sight, Blacknell, with Collins in tow, turned to the local liquor stores in search of the necessary ingredients (gin, Campari and vermouth) to make one (or a likely a couple).

Once inside the store, Collin proposed to make the Negronis with French ingredients as it seemed more appropriate considering their location. Like two youngsters on an adventure, they rummaged through a number of potential French replacements.

Blacknell suggested (as much as expressed his fondness) of Suze, a bitter aperitif to replace the Campari, and Lillet Blanc, a wine-based aperitif, to replace the sweet vermouth. Of course, there was plenty of Plymouth gin back at the house, so the base spirit remained unchanged.

Back home, and after consuming an unconfirmed number of Negroni’s, Blacknell suggested they simply call the drink a White Negroni cocktail because of its clear presentation, and it would be easy to present and market it as such to the trade. But it was more than just that; two decades later it’s safe to say that, at least for the bitter aperitivo-loving world, it has become one of the most famous modern variations on the classic Italian cocktail.

White Negroni cocktail recipe

Enough talk, how about you make your own signature White Negroni cocktail! You will need:

  • 45 ml gin
  • 30 ml Lillet (pronounced lee-lay) Blanc
  • 15 ml Suze gentian liqueur

Add the gin, Lillet Blanc and Suze into a mixing glass with ice, stir for 15 to 20 seconds until well-chilled. Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice, and garnish with a lemon twist.

Previously enjoyed (predominantly by classic cocktail drinkers), the boozy and bitter White Negroni cocktail has slowly become a favourite on the drinks menu.

Not to overemphasise the obvious, but there are very few cocktails that can boast an entire week (aptly called Negroni Week) dedicated to it on the cocktail calendar! If you don’t believe us, take a look for yourself…

Follow this easy recipe to make your own Negroni cocktail. 1st Principles offers a variety of unique handcrafted ginsperfectly attuned to turn your Negroni into a memorable affair!