It's Negroni Week!

photo by Bob Horowitz
photo by Bob Horowitz

“The bitters are excellent for the liver. The gin is bad for you. They balance each other.” -Orson Welles

A few years ago, a group of (mostly female) friends and I were sitting in a restaurant at the bar, all drinking Negronis.

A man seated a few feet away remarked, “You people drink like old men.”

Clearly this guy doesn’t get out much.

Recently, the Negroni has become so popular (with people of all ages!) that it inspired Imbibe and Campari to launch a worldwide charity event celebrating this beloved cocktail, known as Negroni Week. The idea was partly inspired by the Negroni Social, an event created by Douglas Derrick at Nostrana in Portland, Oregon. But it was also not lost on the organizers that the cocktail has so many fans far and wide, it made perfect sense to unite all our orange-stained livers together, and help the world… by drinking! So between June 2 - 8, bars the world over will participate by serving Negronis (and all their delicious variations, more on that later) and donating a portion of proceeds to the participating bar’s charity of choice.

At press time, well over 1100 bars are joining in, and the list is growing by the minute! To see a list of participating establishments, click here. You can also purchase a “passport” to pay one price for sampling different Negronis within a variety of bars in a city or neighborhood.

Gaz Regan, photo by Amanda Schuster
Gaz Regan, photo by Amanda Schuster

In New York City, one of the associated establishments is Saxon + Parole, where I recently attended a seminar during Manhattan Cocktail Classic led by cocktail director Naren Young and drink historian/bartender/author Gary “Gaz” Regan called the “Negroni Family Tree.” During the course of a few hours, we were lectured on the drink’s history and sampled some of its ‘cousins’ and ‘offspring,’ and even tasted Negroni-themed desserts created by pastry chef Brian Yurko.

How many iconic classic cocktails can you name that have a specific origin and inventor? No one can state with any certainty the genesis of the Margarita, say, or the Manhattan (which might not have even been invented there), and the list goes on. However, one can declare with certainty that the Negroni - a simple, equal part concoction of gin, Campari and sweet vermouth - was invented by, get this, Count Negroni! The Americano - a mixture of Campari, sweet vermouth and soda - had already been popular in his native Milan for decades. In the 1920s, Count Camillo Negroni dropped into his Florence local, Caffé Casoni, and asked for his Americano with gin instead of soda to make it more boozy. Orange was added as the garnish to distinguish it from the other, less strong drink. Qui si va!

Naren Young, photo by Amanda Schuster
Naren Young, photo by Amanda Schuster

In present day, Gaz, who is well known for making finger stirred Negronis at his guest bartending shifts (the origin of that practice is quite the colorful story I could never do justice to here. You’ll just have to ask him someday), shared its history and some of his favorite deviations from the classic recipe. He prefers his with more gin in the mix. Others swap out Campari for Aperol and  playing with other spirits and ingredients (if you have been following us at Alcohol Professor, then you know we’re big fans of those!) From there, Young presented some of the more well known members of the Negroni family, a.k.a. Negroni Sbagliato (“incorrect Negronis,” although if those are wrong, who wants to be right?) such as the Boulevardier (bourbon or rye, Campari and sweet vermouth), the Old Pal (same thing with dry vermouth instead of sweet), Bottled Champagne Negroni, Negroni Blanco (all white ingredients - sub Campari for a clear, aromatic bitter spirit such as Suze, and use Cocchi Americano or Lillet), the Chocolate Negroni (with chocolate bitters and orange “air”, surprisingly balanced and not too sweet!) and others.

Negroni marshmallow, jello and encapsulated shot, photo by Amanda Schuster
Negroni marshmallow, jello and encapsulated shot, photo by Amanda Schuster

Next door at the attached gin bar, Madam Geneva, Yurko demonstrated his techniques for making the aforementioned orange air - a lovely tasting molecular gastronomical wonder that is a cross between a cream and a foam - as well as Negroni gelée and Negroni marshmallows and “sticks.” Not exactly something the average kid can try at home, but most fun to watch, discuss and taste.

Basically, there are so many ways to make a Negroni, it’s like the Bob Marley of cocktails - relaxing, intoxicating, has a lot of covers, respected the world over and fathered many children.

How do you love your Negroni? Go on and count the ways! And this week, help those in need while you’re at it. If you’re social media inclined, remember to give a shout out by using the hashtag #NegroniWeek. We’d love to see what you’re drinking too, so if there’s room, please mention us

Gin Orange Mousse with Negroni Pearls, ctsy Campari
Gin Orange Mousse with Negroni Pearls, ctsy Campari

@TheAlcoholProf or with the hashtag #drink4kids.

By the way, if you do happen to partake at Saxon + Parole this week, they are serving a special dessert, Gin Botanical Infused Orange Mousse with Negroni Pearls. A dollar for each sale goes to Children of Bellevue.

Salud!