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Negroni vs Old Fashioned: cocktail battle

old fashioneds on bar aspect ratio 16 9

The Negroni and the Old Fashioned. Few drinks have stood the test of time like these two classic cocktails. You’re just as likely to be found sipping one at the weekend as their inventors were over a hundred years ago. Each has its own group of loyal drinkers, but which is better?

Simple, easy and original. The Old Fashioned is a smooth sipper that lets whisky do the talking. Unlike a Negroni which combines equal parts three ingredients in equal parts for a bold, rich drink that’s packed with flavour.

As creators of Scotland’s finest blended scotch whisky, we’re slightly biassed when it comes to our favourite serve. But it’s less about which is best and more about which you prefer. 

If you’re not sure which cocktail to order next time you’re at the bar then read on. We’re comparing everything from origins to taste, to how to make them at home. Negroni vs Old Fashioned… you choose.

Negroni vs Old Fashioned: an introduction

The Old Fashioned is the original cocktail. First created in the 17th century, it’s got plenty of history and even more variations that have cropped up over the years. But the classic combination of whisky, sugar, water and bitters is pretty unbeatable. 

Newer to the scene, the Negroni was invented a few hundred years later. This sophisticated serve came about in the early 20th century in Florence. It’s an Italian staple that mixes equal parts gin, Campari and vermouth.

Both cocktails are traditionally stirred and served with ice in a tumbler to chill the spirits and mellow the alcoholic content. And both are typically garnished with a twist of orange peel to bump up the citrus notes. 

But that’s where the similarities come to an end.

Making an Old Fashioned

Whisky, bitters and sugar are what you need to make an Old Fashioned. Traditionally a sugar cube is muddled into aromatic bitters before the whisky is added for a mix of sweetness and depth. But sugar syrup, honey and even maple syrup are all popular variations – feel free to mix things up. We use brown cane sugar for extra caramel, toffee notes.

When it comes to the whisky, each type is different, from spiced rye to extra sweet bourbon. But the best Old Fashioned recipes use scotch for a honeyed, smooth finish. Specifically Ballantine’s 7 American Barrel if you ask us.

To make an Old Fashioned, you’ll also need ice. Add to the glass before pouring in the whisky and stir for a couple of minutes. You can always add more ice if you like things super chilled.

Making a Negroni

Unlike an Old Fashioned, a Negroni isn’t all about its spirit base. A 1:1:1 ratio is used for gin, Campari and sweet vermouth. Typically dry gin is used to get a cleaner, more herbal flavour without artificial sweetness. Instead this sweetness comes from the vermouth, a fortified wine with rich flavours of dark fruits and spice.

The Campari is what gives the Negroni its signature bitter after taste. The sort of sharpness you either love or hate. 

To combine these three ingredients, add over ice into a tumbler and stir to chill. Then garnish with a slice or peel of orange.

Negroni vs Old Fashioned: the difference in taste

Whisky vs gin. Campari vs bitters. Sweet vermouth vs sugar. That’s what we’re really comparing in these two cocktails. Each does the same thing, but offers a very different flavour.

The Old Fashioned’s whisky base is all about those warming, lightly spiced notes with a creamy, sweetness that is balanced by a few drops of aromatic bitters. Next is the sugar. 

From whisky to gin – the Negroni is better known for a herbal, citrus taste. Dry gin adds a strong flavour of bitter juniper berries and botanicals. Whilst the Campari balances out any sweetness with a zesty tang. Sweet vermouth then gives the drink its signature warm red colour.

The addition of Campari and vermouth strongly alter the flavour of the gin, unlike the bitters and sugar used in an Old Fashioned which only complement the whisky’s sweet, strong character. So if you’re looking for a drink that puts the spirit in the spotlight, it’s got to be an Old Fashioned. But if a symphony of flavours is more your thing than give a Negroni a go.

Cocktail variations

The Negroni and Old Fashioned have both been around longer than any of us. So unsurprisingly there’s a few variations of each. Many of which we regard to be classics of their own.

The most popular twists on a Negroni include swapping gin for Prosecco Spagliato style, or swapping Capari to Lillet Blanc for a White Negroni alternative. Our favourite is the Boulevardier, a whisky alternative that’s classic, rich and super simple to make with your favourite bottle of Ballantine’s.

When it comes to an Old Fashioned, there’s plenty of ways to make it your own. Swap sugar to honey, add extra orange with orange bitters or pop in some sweet vermouth to make a Rob Roy cocktail. We love a remix so obviously made one all on our own with apple cider, otherwise known as the Apple Cider Old Fashioned, perfect for summer evenings and Autumn nights.

Check out more Negroni variations and Old Fashioned variations in our rundown of the best.


Upgrade a Negroni by swapping out Gin for our Ballantine’s 12 Year Old Whisky and mix up the Boulevardier. Our favourite kind of remix


Old Fashioned

Our favourite way to enjoy an Old Fashioned is with Ballantine’s 7 Bourbon Barrel Finish, with a couple of dashes of orange bitters to complement the sweet notes of the whisky.


Is a Negroni stronger than an Old Fashioned?

Whisky and gin both have a similar ABV of around 40% but an Old Fashioned has a higher percentage of whisky compared to the amount of gin in a Negroni. Campari and sweet vermouth are slightly weaker, sitting at around 20-25%. So whilst both are considered strong drinks, the Old Fashioned is a slightly stronger cocktail considering the alcoholic content.


To sum things up, the Negroni and Old Fashioned might look similar. But these two classic cocktails are actually more distant second cousins than close siblings. The Old Fashioned is a stronger, simpler serve that plays to the sweetly spiced smoothness of whisky. Whilst the Negroni blends three alcoholic ingredients to get its signature bold, bittersweet flavour.

Not sure which to choose? Go for something in between the two with a Boulevardier. It’s the best of both worlds mixing scotch with Campari and vermouth for a Negroni whisky serve.

Find more ways to mix Ballantine’s with our collection of whisky cocktails. We’ve put a spin on tons of classics from the best variations of a Penicillin to drinks similar to a Mojito.

Like an Old Fashioned? Try these similar whisky drinks next

If you love an Old Fashioned but want to try something new, here’s 14 cocktail recipes to try. Each similar but somewhat different to this classic whisky drink.

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How to garnish an Old Fashioned the old and new way

From fruits and flowers to spice and herbs, here’s a bunch of Old Fashioned garnish ideas to experiment with.

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