The blonde Negroni, a refreshing, still potent variation (photo by Peter Zimmerman for Wine and Whiskey Globe)

As the last days of summer approach, I am embracing the warm sunshine and refreshing myself with the tipples that celebrate the remaining days of the season. At our house before dinner, the cardinal-hued Negroni has been synonymous with summer.

Three ingredients: Gin, Campari and sweet vermouth.

Negronis are easy to prepare and often easier to enjoy, but one of our more recent houseguests described their first sip as “too bitter and too sweet.” Fulfilling my duties as host, I offered a more palatable libation. As a former mixologist, I sought to reinvent and reinvigorate this revered classic by updating it with new ingredients—maintaining the base characteristics of the cocktail while adding a few new flourishes.

Enter the Blonde Negroni.

After several attempts to replace the Campari component, I discovered that Luxardo Bitter Bianco is a smoother, clear-colored alternative to the classic Italian bitter. It plays nicely with gin and vermouth and feels much softer on the palate. It is a delightful amaro, a distilled herbal infusion with hints of orange zest, cardamom, and warm, herbal spiciness. Quinine and wormwood contribute to its pleasantly tart finish.

I also decided to replace the sweet vermouth with Dolin Dry Vermouth. Produced in the French town of Chambéry, it is a lighter, drier, and more floral alternative in the preparation of the finished cocktail.  I also decided to use Bulrush Gin because:

1.  I still had some on hand.

2. It is delicious!

Some Negroni recipes substitute vodka for gin, but I find that the herb-centric heart of gin is essential to the balance and contrast of this cocktail. It is a drink best served on the rocks or over a large cube if possible. Stirring is the preferred method of preparation; the late-great “startender” Gaz Regan would have agreed with that point even if it meant using his own finger to do it. A long, well-spiraled citrus twist garnish adds the final touch to this delicious reinterpretation of a venerable classic.

The Blonde Negroni

1.5 oz Gin 

¾ oz Luxardo Bitter Bianco

¾ oz Dolin Dry Vermouth

In an ice filled cocktail shaker, combine gin, Luxardo and vermouth. With a long bar spoon, stir approximately 30 times.  Strain and pour into a double old fashioned cocktail glass over fresh ice. Garnish with a fresh grapefruit twist. Neither too bitter nor too sweet. Enjoy!