The Contessa

A bright red Contessa cocktail in a tumbler glass in the sunlight. A cut orange beside it.

Another angle on a Negroni.

by Erin Henderson

I have a secret.

It's so shameful I've hidden it for years out of blinding terror that the hipster cocktail community will cancel me. 

But. We're all friends here, right? OK, here goes (deep inhale):

I hate Negronis. 

(Lifts head from pillow) Are you still here? 

OK. Thanks for understanding. 

I'm actually not a fan of Campari in general. For my delicate palate, I find the bitterness overwhelming, usually dominating any cocktail it's in – and not that good way of being dominated. 

So when I stumbled upon The Contessa – a riff on the Negroni that swaps the brawny Campari with its softer cousin Aperol, I took note. It also uses dry vermouth instead of sweet, and seeing how I already love adding a wink of white vermouth to my gin and tonics, I was then sold. 

If you carry the same shame as I, try The Contessa for a kinder, gentler, and frankly, far better drink.

The Contessa

The Contessa is a relatively recent edition to the cocktail playbook, having been invented maybe a decade or so ago, by Boston bartenders. 

Makes: 1 drink
Bartender level: easy

  • 1 oz London Dry Gin
  • 1 oz Aperol
  • 1 oz White Vermouth
  • Orange wheel for garnish
How to Make It: 
  1. Pour all spirits into an ice-filled mixing glass and stir to chill for about 10 seconds. 
  2. Strain into a tumbler with one or two large ice cubes. 
  3. Garnish with an orange wheel and serve.


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