White Negroni

While my computer is still in the shop (it’s going on week three…) I’ve been eking out posts while praying to the gods, or technicians at Apple, that I get it back soon. In the meantime, it gave me a good excuse for a cocktail.

It wasn’t just the frustration; as soon as I got 3-Ingredient Cocktails: An Opinionated Guide to the Most Enduring Drinks in the Cocktail Canon by Robert Simonson, I immediately took to the book since every cocktail only had three ingredients, most of which I already have on hand. So while the fate of my computer is unclear, I definitely know there will be more cocktails in my future.

I love this book because rather than cocktails with twelve ingredients, three or four being things you have to hunt down or mail order, or climb the Hungarian alps to procure, few will have any trouble getting a majority of the ingredients called for in this book. Most cocktails don’t need more than three ingredients; I’m not saying multi-ingredient cocktails are bad, but some of those multi-bottle ones are better left to the pros, who don’t mind buying a bottle of alkermes to use 1/4 teaspoon since they can use it for other drinks in the future.

The most famous 3-ingredient cocktail, at least these days, is Negroni. I fell in love with White Negroni at Dante in New York, who has the best Negroni happy hour ever: $10 per cocktail. (At the time of this writing.) And if you think there’s only one Negroni, their list is a page long, and all of them are winners. How do I know that? I…um, er…

Having tried quite a few, this one remains my favorite. While it’s probably not the exact same recipe served at Dante, it’s terrific. According to Robert Simonson, the White Negroni was invented in France when British bartender Wayne Collins had to make some Negronis, but couldn’t find Campari or sweet vermouth. (This was in 2001, and perhaps that was the case back then, but those are both readily available now.) He instead reached for Suze and Lillet, two classic French apéritifs, and created the White Negroni.

One twist for making this one is to use Kina L’Aéro d’Or made by Tempus Fugit. It’s an orange-based apéritif, like Lillet, but has more bracing quinine and wormwood flavors, meant to mimic the older style of the orange-based apéritif, and tastes richer and bolder. I’m a big fan of Lillet, but if you come across a bottle of the Kina L’Aéro d’Or on a trip to the liquor store, you might want to give it a try, especially here.

White Negroni
Print Recipe
1 cocktail
Adapted from 3-Ingredient Cocktails by Robert SimonsonSuze is a bitter apéritif that gets its flavor, and strength, from gentian roots. It's fairly prominent in this drink, which is great if you like cocktails on the bitter side, as I do. Similar gentian-based apéritifs include Avèze and Salers and could be used in place of the Suze. For those who like their drinks on the less bitter side, increase the gin to 1 1/2 ounces and reduce the Suze to 1/2 ounce.
1 ounce London Dry gin
1 ounce Suze
1 ounce Lillet blanc or Kina L'Aéro d'Or
1 twist grapefruit zest
1. Add the gin, Suze, and Lillet or Kina L'Aéro d'Or a cocktail mixing glass. Fill glass halfway with ice and stir briskly until well-chilled.
2. Strain into a chilled coupe glass. Express the oils from the grapefruit zest over the top of the cocktail by squeezing the zest colored side down over the cocktail to spray the oil over the top of the drink, then drop the grapefruit twist into the glass.


A refreshing take on the classic Negroni, featuring three ingredients, for one terrific cocktail!

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22 comments

  • September 17, 2018 11:42am

    This sounds fantastic – I most order a copy of the book. I’ve been a massive Lillet blanc fan as my aperitif of choice since I was old enough to enjoy them, and I’ve really loved all your Lillet related posts over the years!

  • Laura
    September 17, 2018 3:49pm

    It’s similar to the Liberté: gin with Lillet blanc and orange peel. I love the original Negroni and will definitely try the white version.

  • Debra
    September 17, 2018 3:51pm

    Don’t you love people who read your recipes and then change every inch of them? I think I’ll try this with vodka, gentian liqueur from the Alps, and white vermouth.
    So, thanks for the inspiration!

  • Catherine
    September 17, 2018 3:54pm

    Just ordered the book. Sounds fantastic–love the 3 ingredient idea1

  • September 17, 2018 4:07pm

    Excited for find a reason to buy a bottle of Suze. I love the look of the label and it looks great on the shelf!

  • Janet
    September 17, 2018 4:51pm

    I’m a 3 ingredient drinker too…aperol spritz!

  • Denise della Santina
    September 17, 2018 4:52pm

    Speaking of running out for a specialty bottle…our bar is about 40 bottles deep but doesn’t include Suze. Any recs for possible replacements? Before I “bite the bottle” and add Suze, it would be nice to try it with one of our other aromatic, bitter white vermouth-like options. We have slightly sweet and dry…any suggestions?

    • David
      September 17, 2018 5:10pm

      I gave a couple of other suggestions for gentian-based aperitifs that could be used but if you have something else in that category, you could certainly give it a try. A quinine-based aperitif is another way to go – something like Bonal or Cap Corse blanc – although they are different flavors from gentian. Let us know what you come up with.

  • MK
    September 17, 2018 6:02pm

    “While you’re here Doctor…”, I recently purged my liquor cabinet and sadly disposed of many liqueurs I had gotten on my travels, some purchased as far back as 20 yrs ago. What is your “rule of thumb” on how long they last…unopened and opened. Meanwhile it’s clear I need to make fancy drinks more often!

  • Carla P Blanco
    September 17, 2018 6:11pm

    The only ingredient it shares with a Negroni is gin, why call it a Negroni at all?

  • Zoë
    September 17, 2018 6:19pm

    It might just be related to one too many but I’ve lately found Campari (though I haven’t tried Aperol) makes me feel awful the next day – wondering if it’s the colorings ? Either way this looks delicious !!

    • September 17, 2018 10:50pm
      David Lebovitz

      You might want to try either Bruto Americano (made by St. Georges in California) which doesn’t use artificial color, and is excellent, or Cappelletti, which is Italian and is said to be naturally colored as well.

  • Tami
    September 17, 2018 6:40pm

    I just made a white negroni this weekend. I used dolin blanc in place of the Lillet and it works very nicely.

  • Hillary
    September 17, 2018 6:45pm

    I don’t have Suze but I have a bottle of Genepy that I’ve been hoping to find some uses for – wonder how that would taste in this?

    • Dm
      September 18, 2018 3:25am

      I don’t know suze well—definitely planning to get some— but the genepe I’ve had is very powerfully herbal. I’d start with 1/2 oz and taste.

  • Claire
    September 17, 2018 9:11pm

    Due to medicinal interaction, I cannot have grapefruit. Is there something that can be used as an acceptable substitute?

    • September 18, 2018 7:18am
      David Lebovitz

      Yes, another citrus would work as well.

  • Roger Weeks
    September 17, 2018 11:36pm

    A viable substitution for the Lillet might also be https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cocchi_Americano.

    I use it in drink recipes that call for the older style of Kina Lillet (Corpse Reviver #2, a Vesper, etc.)

  • September 18, 2018 11:19am

    Such a terrific drink. I’m lucky that a few years back my partner gave me all the ingredients for a white negroni together with a couple of vintage glasses.

  • Linda
    September 18, 2018 2:54pm

    I just bought a bottle of Tanqueray Seville. Think this might be a good one to try. Any suggestions? Personally found it too overpowering in my G&T.

  • Victoria
    October 2, 2018 4:39pm

    I got a bottle of Suze and made this drink, which is VERY enjoyable!