Balance Out The Bitterness Of Negronis And Swap Gin For Tequila

Few cocktails are as sturdy and iconic as the Negroni, a well-calibrated combination of equal parts gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari. One of the best aspects of this drink is that its trusted formula lets you swap in different liquors to create new tweaks on the classic. In that spirit, reach for a bottle of tequila to make a Negroni that can balance the bitter Campari with sweet agave flavors.

Subbing tequila in for gin will give the drink a juicer, more herbal taste. Whereas gin has a botanical flavor with strong notes of juniper and coriander, tequila is sweeter, more peppery, and carries prominent citrus flavors. To play up these aspects, you may also want to garnish your tequila Negroni with a twist of lime peel (though the traditional orange or lemon peel work just fine too).

As with a regular Negroni, you can add the three ingredients in equal parts. Take 1 ounce each of tequila, sweet vermouth, and Campari, and mix them well over ice. Much the same as other cocktails that consist entirely of spirits, this is a stirred drink. Agitating the ice will melt the cubes until the drink is chilled and pleasantly diluted. This should take roughly 20-30 seconds, but always taste your drink before serving and keep stirring if needed.

Choose top-notch spirits for a tequila Negroni

A drink is only as good as the spirits you make it with, even a Negroni, so you'll want to start by selecting a quality tequila for this swap. While truly top-shelf liquor should be saved for sipping, in this case, go with a liquor that still holds up on its own. Options like Espolòn Blanco and Olmeca Altos Plata are expert-approved inexpensive tequilas. Some recipes for this drink call for blanco tequila, while others recommend reposado (golden) tequila; you can experiment with both styles to see which kind you prefer.

The sweet vermouth should also be chosen with care. Carpano Antica Formula is a gold standard vermouth that's prized for its complex taste, though it also carries a price tag much higher than other brands. If you're looking for a mid-priced option, Dolin Rouge is a great choice that is versatile enough to work in many cocktails. As with wine, vermouth will oxidize and lose its quality after opening. To combat this, always keep it in the refrigerator after it's been uncorked. 

While Campari — an Italian aperitif with a strong bittersweet flavor — is the classic third spirit in a Negroni, you can also experiment with other liqueurs instead. Aperol is another Italian liqueur with some similarities to Campari, though it's a lighter spirit with a more pronounced orange flavor. Swap in Aperol if you want a sweeter, more summery tequila Negroni. 

Try these Negroni variations for even more possibilities

The tequila Negroni is just the tip of the iceberg for possibilities with this cocktail. There are so many Negroni variations that it practically qualifies as a genre in and of itself. One of the most famous riffs is the Boulevardier, which swaps gin for bourbon or rye whiskey. This drink has been around since the 1920s, and it makes for a warmer cocktail than the crisp bite of a traditional Negroni. If you want to tweak the recipe further, try replacing Campari with the complexly flavored amaro Cynar to create a drink called a Man About Town.

Other takes on the Negroni formula stray a bit further from its origins. The White Negroni, for example, keeps the gin but removes both the Campari and the sweet vermouth. In their places are Lilet Blanc and Suze gentian liqueur. The result is a drink that carries a Negroni's bitterness but with less sweetness and more floral notes.

If you're looking for something a bit closer to the tequila variation, try the Oaxacan Negroni. Here, tequila is replaced by its smokier sibling, mezcal. This drink will offer new spicy notes while still bringing in plenty of agave sweetness.