Mastering the White Negroni

A controversial Instagram reel from San Francisco bar Trick Dog opens with the voice of Nick Amano-Dolan, the bar’s beverage manager and GM. “It turns out Josh Harris thinks that everyone’s been making White Negronis wrong,” he announces, newscaster-style, referring to one of the bar’s owners. “Josh, how do you make a White Negroni?”

Harris rattles off the ingredients between bites of pastry: gin, Luxardo Bitter Bianco, blanc vermouth. Then he adds, contentiously: “What, are you going to ask me about Suze?” The gentian liqueur has no place in the drink, he explains, “because it’s a White Negroni—not a Yellow Negroni.”

In the video, he’s handed a lemon-hued Negroni, and takes a sip—only to spit it out on the floor.

So, of course, we asked Harris about Suze.

“I don’t think Suze is bad,” he says. “It’s very French, very delicious.” But he “feels strongly” that its sunny hue and distinct gentian bitterness don’t belong in a White Negroni. Suze and Campari “don’t taste anything like each other,” he reasons.

Instead, if a White Negroni is meant to be a clear rendition of a Negroni, Luxardo Bianco Bitter is the better choice, he says. Rather than a red bitter, it’s a white bitter. For the same reasons, he skips Cocchi Americano and Lillet, two aperitif wines often employed in White Negroni variations. “They are not approximations of sweet vermouth, nor are they clear,” he says. In their place, Trick Dog often turns to the lightly herbal, floral Martini Bianco, which Harris describes as “basically white sweet vermouth.”

Harris’ take plays into his fascination with clear drinks. When Luxardo Bitter Bianco launched stateside in 2016, he knew immediately he wanted to use it in “an approximation of the Negroni, but in white form.”

Little workshopping was needed, he recalls. Just as Trick Dog makes its classic Negroni using equal parts gin, sweet vermouth and Campari, the bar’s White Negroni uses the same proportions, calling for 1 ounce each of gin, blanc vermouth and Bitter Bianco.

Lastly, he swapped out the garnish: Instead of lemon or orange peel, he added “a civilized-size grapefruit zest” to evoke Campari’s bitter citrus note.

While Harris doesn’t plan to tweak his take on the White Negroni, he notes that there’s room to riff a little. For example, his Perfect White Negroni splits the vermouth portion between blanc and dry, following the same concept as a Perfect Manhattan, for guests who prefer a drier version of the drink. He’s also spun off variations like a White Americano and a White Sbagliato. 

In addition, Harris notes that, similar to the classic template, the White Negroni can take on different nuances depending on which gin or blanc vermouth is used. Harris leans into “old-school London drys” for the gin component, experimenting with different options, but refuses to pick a favorite: “I celebrate all gins,” he says.

That said, he suggests the drink is sufficiently versatile to work with a wide range of gins and blanc vermouths—just bypass the Suze.

“I think the drink of gin, Suze and blanc vermouth is a nice-tasting drink,” Harris concludes. “It’s just not what I would call a White Negroni.” 

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