The next time that you make yourself a Negroni, skip the gin. Instead, add a touch of smoke to the drink with mezcal instead. With a similar flavor to London Dry style gins—albeit a little more savory and much more smoky—mezcal is a perfect replacement for the herbaceous spirit. In a Negroni, mezcal’s backbone of smoke and spice is assertive enough to stand up to the bracing bitterness of Campari. Layered and complex, this modern twist on the Italian classic is destined to become your go-to Negroni variation.
When choosing a mezcal, skip anything too pricey—especially if you know it is meant for straight sipping. And don’t use anything that is overwhelmingly smoky or funky. The best mezcals to use for this cocktail tend to be gin-like: herbaceous, floral, citrusy or high in minerality. Some of our favorite bottles of mezcal to use in this drink are Del Maguey’s Vida—which was designed specifically to be used in cocktails—Ilegal’s Joven or Fidencio’s Clásico. For vermouth, opt for bolder, richer bottlings like Carpano Antica Formula or more herbal, vegetal bottlings like Cinzano 1757. While it’s perfectly acceptable to use a Campari substitute like Cappelletti, we prefer to use the real thing. If you really want to turn the drink on its head, though, add a few drops of Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters, which will boost up the spice and the bitterness, and use a twist of grapefruit instead of the standard orange.