Negroni Week is half over already. Have you had your Negroni today?
Sponsored by Campari, Negroni Week is one of the better organized and widespread bartend-for-charity events I’ve seen so far. Participating bars will donate one dollar for every Negroni (or Negroni variant) you drink this week to the charity of that bar’s choice. For a listing of bars near you, and the charities each is supporting, visit Negroni Week’s list of nearly 1,300 worldwide. Don’t worry, there’s a geographical filter. I’m proud to say that Central Ohio has almost twenty places to get your Negroni on for charity.
A good many people, including a lot of fairly avid cocktail drinkers, don’t really know just what the hell a Negroni is. In fact, the bar world seems to be split into two distinct camps, What the Heck is a Negroni? and How Can You Not Know the Negroni? Let’s see if I can flip a few of you, dear readers, from Column A to B.
The Negroni is one of the big magilla early Twentieth Century cocktails. Invented at the request of Italian Count Camillo Negroni by Fosco Scarselli, it is a classic three-ingredient drink, and it is as easy to make as it is challenging to drink. Here’s the recipe:
- 1 part London Dry Gin (Choose a classic, juniper-forward brand)
- 1 part Italian Vermouth
- 1 part Campari
Combine ingredients (typically one ounce per serving) in a mixing glass with ice and stir well until completely chilled. Strain into an Old-Fashioned glass with large, fresh ice. Garnish with your most elegant orange peel presentation.
I say the Negroni is challenging to drink because it is when you are not used to it. Some of the bittering agents in Campari are unique, at least to my palate, and I find it a difficult ingredient to work with, as opposed to many other amari. Plenty of other people just love Camapri to death, so your mileage will vary. In the past, I found the classic recipe above to be hard to enjoy.
Bitter and stirred types, please be aware that Doug is a Bitter Wimp!
I am not a bitter wimp! Um… but I do tend to prefer drinks where the bittering is there to enhance the other flavors, rather than being the dominant player. In the Negroni, the Campari is the primary spirit, with the gin and vermouth as modifiers.
But do not give up on the Negroni, fellow not-bitter wimps. The great value of Negroni Week for me has been how it has opened up my eyes to the world of Negroni variants. I started off with a visit to Columbus’s premier craft bar, Curio, for a pre-Negroni Week kickoff. There they debuted their Negroni Week menu of five Negronis.
I will mention two of them in particular; both of which were delicious, and both of which would make a fine entry point into the Negroni arena.
The first is a Beet Negroni, with fresh beet-infused vermouth. I found, after first experimenting with them as a joke in other concoctions, that beets are really a pretty interesting cocktail ingredient. In the case of this cocktail, the earthiness mellows out the impact of the bitterness nicely, but it also damps down the clarity of the gin a bit.
The second one that I particularly liked (I tried them all), was the Sparkling Negroni, which is merely the classic recipe with an added 2/3 part sparkling wine, served in a champagne flute rather than over the rocks. This is an excellent drink all by itself, and an excellent way to temper your palate in preparation for the classic Negroni. It sweetens the profile of the drink without tipping it over, yet still leaves the rest of the flavors clear and distinct and in their original harmony.
The rest of this week is a great time for you to visit your nearby serious cocktail joint discover the Negroni. Many have their own variants for you to try if you feel a little hesitant about diving into the big, bold, bitter original. But make sure you try at least on of the original before your experiments are done. I’ve found the classic version of the Negroni to be a heckuva lot of fun. With the right gin, and a good sweet vermouth like Antica, it is a marvelously balanced, refreshingly bright aperitif. It is still bitter as hell, but with only a little acclimation of your taste buds it becomes readily apparent why this is one of The Classics.