Ladies and gents, it is Negroni Week! Yes, that is in fact a real thing. And no, it’s not just another excuse to get drunk. It’s actually making the world a better place to live (<<could I be any more cheesey?), for real. Hear me out here.
Negroni Week, June 1-7, is in its third year, starting in 2013 by one of the leading drink magazines in the world, Imbibe. What I love about Negroni Week, however, is that as you imbibe, you’re giving back, as proceeds (a minimum of $1 per Negroni sold) from every participating bar goes toward a charity of that bar’s choice. Last year it grew from 100 participating bars to more than 1,300 participating bars around the world raising $120,000 for charities, both near and afar.
This year more than 3,500 bars around the world are participating in unique ways, such as San Francisco’s Presidio Social Club, which is selling a couple of aged Negroni bottles (for enjoying at dinner or to take home) with proceeds going to the San Francisco Food Bank, and The Gin Room in St. Louis, which is hosting a “How-To Mix Negronis and Variations” class on Monday. Others include Bangkok’s Lady Brett Tavern supporting The HIV Foundation, São Paulo’s Forquilha supporting Santa Fe (a shelter for boys and girls), and Brisbane’s The Gresham supporting The Kid’s Cancer Project.
History of the Negroni
But it’s impossible to talk about one of the most unique, classic cocktails and not talk about its unique history (I promise to make it short). The most widely report account of the Negroni comes around 1920, when it was ordered by an Italian man by the same name, Count Camillo Negroni. Yes, not only was he a count, but he was a working rodeo cowboy in the U.S. This guy would definitely have a reality TV show if he was alive today. After returning home to Florence, Italy from America, Count Negroni walked into Bar Casoni, and wanted a more boozy version of the Americano (see recipe below), asking for gin to replace the soda water. Nearly a century later, it stands tall among some of the world’s most classic cocktails, I believe in part because of its complexity and bitter and booze forwardness (not for the weak), but also in its simplicity to make.
Los Angeles Bars Celebrating Negroni Week
Calling Los Angeles home, I’m incredibly proud to see 50 L.A. bars participating in this year’s Negroni Week, many of which are among some of my favorites, including Bestia (supporting No-Kill Los Angeles), Pour Vous (supporting American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), Sassafras (No-Kill Los Angeles), The Thirsty Crow (supporting National Alliance on Mental Illness), Dia de Campo (supporting Heal the Bay), Eveleigh (supporting Community In Schools Los Angeles) and The Varnish (supporting The Weingart Center for the Homeless). You can see a full list of participating bars in Los Angeles and around the world here. Naturally, however, I’m not going to leave you without some Negroni cocktail recipes. While Negroni Week is just this week, you can make these Negroni-esque cocktails any time of year.
The Americano and Negroni are strikingly similar in look, and it’s hard to mention one, and not the other. The difference being that the Americano is a less boozy cocktail, using club soda, rather than gin. Otherwise, the ingredients and recipe are the same. Add all the ingredients to a glass with ice and stir until chilled. Garnish with an orange slice. (Photo by Steve Fadden on Flickr.)
Is there an easier cocktail to make? Okay, maybe a rum and coke and whiskey ginger, but they aren’t going to be as complex as the classic Negroni cocktail. Some shake, some stir. I prefer mine stirred and then served up and garnished with an orange peel. Others pour it over ice in an old fashioned glass. Considered an Italian apéritif or digestif, it doesn’t have the same customs as cocktails like the Sazerac. Drink it as it tickles your fancy. (Photo by Adrian Scottow on Flickr)
The Negroni Sbagliato (“sbagliato” meaning “mistaken”) is said to have been the result of a bartender’s gaffe at Bar Basso in Milan, Italy. The story goes that while making a Negroni for a customer one night, the bartender at Bar Basso mistakenly grabbed a bottle of Italian white sparkling wine, spumante, instead of gin. By the time the bartender realized the mistake, the customer had already approved of the taste of the mistaken cocktail. It uses the same ingredients and processes as the classic Negroni, except it replaces the gin with sparkling wine, such as Prosecco. (Photo by Lor Lar on Flickr)
If there’s one popular alternative to the classic Negroni, it’s the White Negroni. Created more than a decade ago by London bartender Wayne Collins, it’s a lighter version of the classic, using French apertif Suze and Lillet Blanc instead of Campari and vermouth. Otherwise, the recipe follows the same procedure. Add all ingredients to a glass with ice and stir until chilled. (Photo by Adrian Scottow on Flickr)
- 2 oz. Amaras Mezcal
- .75 oz Tempus Fugit Alessio Vermouth Chinato
- .75 oz Tempus Fugit Gran Classico Bitter
- Abbot’s bitters
- Orange peel
This Negroni cocktail recipe takes the same concept of the classic but gives it a smokier flavor with the mezcal substitution. You can largely use the same ingredients, but this is a more contemporary version. Add all ingredients to a mixing glass with ice, stir until chilled, and then garnish with an orange peel. (Photo by Hanna Lee on Flickr)
This cocktail recipe comes from my friends at the Bar at Culina at the Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills. For the infused gin, you’ll lightly char some rosemary and drop it into a bottle of gin overnight (setting some rosemary aside for garnish). Combine gin, amaro montenegro, and campari in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake, then strain into a glass with a large ice cube. Top with charred rosemary garnish.
Blind Barber Negroni
- 2 oz. whiskey
- 1 oz. sweet vermouth
- 1 oz. aperol
- Islay Scotch whisky rinse (like Laphroaig)
- Orange bitters
- Orange slice for garnish
Of course I had to have at least one whiskey variation of the Negroni. This comes from my pal Sean, bartender at my favorite Los Angeles bar, the Blind Barber. The whiskies aren’t overpowering, so it makes for a nice balanced drink that maintains the characteristics of a Negroni. Rinse an old fashioned glass with a little Islay Scotch whisky and discard. Add all of the ingredients together in the same glass with ice and stir until chilled. Garnish with an orange peel. (Photo from the Blind Barber)
But if I’m going to mention whiskey with the Negroni then it’s imperative to mention the Boulevardier, the whiskey cousin of the Negroni. Like many Negroni variations, you’re just replacing the gin with whiskey. I, however, most typically see the Boulevardier served up. Add all ingredients to a mixing glass with ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with an orange slice. (Photo by Edsel Little on Flickr)
- 1.5 oz. gin
- .5 oz. sweet vermouth
- .5 oz. Campari
- .5 oz. Grand Marnier
- .5 oz. blood orange juice (in my case, Bundaberg Blood Orange)
This cocktail comes from yours truly. I used Gaz Regan’s Caricature Cocktail (see just below) as inspiriation and reference, subbing in Grand Marnier and blood orange juice. If you don’t naturally gravitate to a Negroni, and prefer something sweeter, then this may be the drink for you. You still get some bitterness, but it’s much less bitter and spirit-forward then traditional Negroni cocktail recipes. I imagine Count Negroni is rolling in his grave right now.
- 1.5 oz. gin
- .5 oz. sweet vermouth
- .5 oz. Campari
- .75 oz. Cointreau
- .5 oz. fresh grapefruit juice
- Orange twist for garnish
This recipe comes from Gaz Regan, a formidable cocktail expert and the author of The Negroni, a robust guide to of the Negroni and with more info and recipes then you can shake a stick at. As Regan puts it, the Caricature is a rip-off of Dale DeGroff’s the Old Flame (uses orange juice rather than grapefruit juice), but with minor adjustments (and similar in style and ingredients to my bittersweet Negroni recipe above). Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with orange twist.
- 1 cup water
- 4 oz. sugar
- 2 oz. gin
- 2 oz. sweet vermouth
- 2 oz. campari
- 20 oz. fresh pink grapefruit juice
- Pinch of salt
Alright, so 10 Negroni cocktail recipes and a popsicle recipe. Because boozy popsicles, and summer. This recipe is also featured in Regan’s book, coming from one of my favorite ice cream shops, Humphry Slocombe in San Francisco. To make, bring water and sugar to a boil in a heavy saucepan. Remove from heat and stir in remaining ingredients. Let cool to room temperature and then pour into ice-pop molds and freeze. Voila!