If You Hate Campari But Love Gin, Try A White Negroni

There's no denying that the Negroni is a timeless classic. This cocktail has made its way from its birthplace in Italy to bars all over the globe, and was even declared the most popular classic cocktail in the world by Drinks International Magazine in 2022. In spite of this, the Negroni's cousin, the white Negroni, is a little bit under the radar. For those who are not fans of Campari — the bitter Italian alcohol that provides the signature flavor and color of a Negroni — but like to enjoy a strong gin drink, this lighter and milder version is worth a try.

While a Negroni is made with equal parts gin, Campari, and vermouth and garnished with an orange peel, a white Negroni is composed of gin, Lillet Blanc, Suze, and a twist of lemon. The result is a drink that is lighter not only in color, but also in flavor. It allows the gin to shine through, rather than being overshadowed by the Campari. If you're not familiar with the ingredients and history of this delicious cocktail, now is the time to learn, so you can try it out next time you head to the bar or even mix up a glass or two yourself.

Origins of the white Negroni

The flavor profile of a traditional Negroni is defined by Italian ingredients, as it originated in Florence, Italy. Meanwhile, the taste of a white Negroni is distinctly French, due to its creation in the Médoc region of France. In the summer of 2001, London bartenders Nick Blacknell and Wayne Collins traveled to Médoc, with Collins planning to compete in a cocktail competition hosted by Drinks International Magazine. They found themselves in their guest house, craving a Negroni, but without access to the usual ingredients. So, they got creative with what they had.

Blacknell and Collins kept the gin, but swapped out the Campari and Vermouth for the French ingredients Lillet Blanc and Suze. Like vermouth, Lillet Blanc is a fortified wine, with fruity and floral notes. Suze, which is flavored with gentian root, is a bittersweet and herbaceous apertif that takes the place of Campari. It even has a similar strength as Campari, at 15-20% alcohol by volume. The sweeter taste of the Lillet Blanc balances out the bitterness of the Suze, and both offer a hint of refreshing citrus that compliments the herbal gin. 

The use of clear and yellow spirits also gives a white Negroni an elegant, lighter color. Whereas a classic Negroni is bold in both taste and appearance, the white version makes for a subtler drink fit for a low-key cocktail party or breezy summer brunch.

How to best enjoy your white Negroni

Whether you're making a white Negroni at home or ordering it out at a bar, there's one tip you can use to get a better drink: Be choosy about the brand of your base alcohol. Lillet Blanc and Suze are specific liqueurs that are consistent, so you are guaranteed a certain level of quality, but don't forget about the gin, which plays a strong role in this cocktail. Without the intense taste of Campari, you can better enjoy the botanicals of your favorite gin, so ask for or use a brand you love. Making your own obviously gives you more control over the final drink, and you can spiff it up even more by serving it with care.

When making drinks for a party, be sure to serve your white Negronis with some kind of aperitivo spread. You can opt for simple snacks, like peanuts, potato chips, and olives, or lean into the French feel and break out a cheese and charcuterie board. Salty, crispy finger foods and rich bites of Brie or Camembert go well with the complex herbaceous, citrusy, bitter notes of this drink. It's a truly refreshing take on a classic, made for gin lovers.