Alike in essence, but not in appearance, the White Negroni acts, in many ways, like the iconic aperitivo cocktail’s fraternal twin. The family resemblance is clear—bitter, bracing, moreish—but each is its own entity, expressing unique attributes and idiosyncrasies.
Where the original is Italianate in construction—Campari and sweet (or “Italian”) vermouth are both native to Italy—the White Negroni is the Francophile sibling, calling on herbaceous Suze in lieu of the red bitter, and Lillet Blanc, a French wine-based aperitif, in place of vermouth. But much like its close family member, the White Negroni has spawned a seemingly infinite number of offshoots.
Some, like the White Negroni Sbagliato, resemble classic variations on the scarlet-hued original, in this case, the Negroni Sbagliato. Others hew closely to the fairer Negroni’s revised recipe, simply swapping out the gentian liqueur for one of the many other alpine-inspired liqueurs on the market. Toby Maloney’s Polka Dot Negroni, for example, subs in Salers in place of Suze and blanc vermouth instead of Lillet, for a subtle, but no less cravable rendition. In a similar fashion, Orlando Franklin McCray calls for Salers, but tops the drink with tonic water in his White Negroni Highball. His White Negroni Fizz, meanwhile, adds a vegan foaming agent for a frothy finish.
Others update the format with a touch of brightness. Another recipe from McCray, for example, takes the aperitivo drink into sour territory, adding a vegan foaming agent and lemon juice to give the drink a crown of froth. Harrison Ginsberg’s winning White Negroni—our favorite in a blind tasting—offers another slight adjustment: one teaspoon of verjus blanc, giving the drink a fresh, green pepper quality.
More recent additions to the White Negroni family stray even further from the modern classic without losing the bitter edge that’s become a calling card of the clan. In his White Negroni Piña Colada, Chris Amirault retains a measure of Suze but swaps gin for mezcal and adds coconut liqueur, pineapple and lemon juice for a drink that lands the White Negroni firmly in aperitiki territory.
Like a rebellious child, Shannon Tebay’s Down By Law not only sheds the family name, but includes none of the original ingredients. The mixture of tequila, apple eau de vie, Luxardo Bitter Bianco, Absentroux and blanc vermouth might bear little resemblance to a White Negroni on paper, but, like any reluctant family member, it’s unable to shake the stirred herbal-floral essence that makes a White Negroni a White Negroni.