Welcome to Negroni Week! Some drinks we celebrate for an hour, for happy hour, other drinks we celebrate for a day, like for Margarita Day (yes, that’s a thing), but ladies and gentlemen, the Negroni cocktail gets an entire week.
The Negroni cocktail is pretty cut-and-dried; you either love it or hate it. It’s not like the “Nutella of cocktails,” such as a margarita, where the popular opinion is overwhelmingly positive. You either love bitter and love a Negroni, or hate bitter, and therefore hate a Negroni. However, there’s no denying that the origin story of the Negroni cocktail is one of the most interesting.
Enter Count Camillo Negroni. Yes, a count. AND, a count who was a rodeo cowboy in the U.S. I kid you not. Well known Italian bartender, Luca Picchi, recounts in his book, Sulle Tracce del Conte: La Vera Storia del Cocktail Negroni, that the origin story of the Negroni dates back to 1919 after Count Camillo Negroni had returned to Italy from the U.S. Interestingly enough, while Italy isn’t exactly known for cocktails, a popular cocktail of that time, especially among Americans, was the Americano, which was equal parts vermouth and Campari, topped with soda water. (Photo by Steve Fadden on Flickr.)
It’s believed that on a visit to Bar Casoni in Florence, rather than order the standard Americano, Count Camillo Negroni instead substituted the soda water with gin. The rest, as they say, is history.
But while the classic Negroni cocktail has largely stayed the same for nearly a century, it’s still taken on different forms. Perhaps there’s no better example than the Negroni Sbagliato. Sbagliato means “mistaken,” in Italy, and that’s exactly what this cocktail is. The story goes that it was also created in Italy, a number of decades later in Milan, at Bar Basso, when a bartender mistakenly added sparkling wine, rather than gin, to the classic Negroni cocktail. The patron liked it so much that the drink (and its name) stuck.
And that brings us to one of my favorite weeks, Negroni Week, from Imbibe Magazine and Campari. The goal is simple: A week of celebrating the Negroni cocktail, with participating bars making classic (and often special) Negroni cocktails, often at a discount, and with at least $1 from each Negroni sold going back to charity. Negroni Week started three years ago in 2013 with about 100 participating venues. This year there are more than 6,000 participating venues!
You can go to the home page of Negroni Week to see participating bars in your location. In Los Angeles, for example, there are more than 70 participating bars, while in Manhattan, New York, there are more than 125, each of which are doing their own rendition of a Negroni, and a number of which are offering Negroni specials, while giving back to local, national, or international charities. Now that’s something to drink to!
It only seemed appropriate then to share Negroni cocktail recipes during Negroni Week.
Negroni Cocktail Recipe
Traditionally, the Negroni consists of equal parts gin, campari, and sweet vermouth, stirred in an Old Fashioned glass with ice. That’s even the Negroni cocktail recipe I used during last year’s Negroni Week. However, I like how David Wondrich, one of the foremost cocktail historians and experts, switches things up with a Negroni cocktail recipe that uses two parts gin and shakes (with ice, of course), rather than stirs. Nonetheless, I think because it’s such a unique drink, bartenders don’t always get the balance right. Try it shaken and stirred, with more gin, and then with less gin, and see how you like it. This isn’t gospel here. (Photo by Adrian Scottow on Flickr.)
Negroni Bittersweet Cocktail Recipe
- 1.5 oz. gin
- .5 oz. sweet vermouth
- .5 oz. Campari
- .5 oz. orange liqueur like Grand Marnier
- .5 oz. blood orange juice (in my case, Bundaberg Blood Orange)
Naturally, I also had to have an alternative Negroni cocktail recipe. While I like Campari, I like using it in cocktails when I can lessen its bitterness. I know, to Negroni zealots, this is perhaps blasphemy. But I like my fruit. This rendition, however, is awfully boozy, since you have four different types of booze here in one drink. It’s essentially an orange version of Gaz Regan’s grapefruit Negroni cocktail recipe (which I documented in last year’s Negroni Week post). To make it, simply add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake, straining in a chilled glass. Voila!