This week has been all about the Negroni. Negroni Week is both a celebration of a classic three-ingredient cocktail, as well as a chance to raise money for charities around the world.
The week was started in 2013 by Imbibe Magazine and Campari, and had an initial 120 venues supporting the cause in the first year. Over the last six years has number has risen to nearly 8,000 venues around the world, which have collectively raised nearly $1.5 million for charitable causes (not counting what has been raised this year).
So how did it all begin?
The Negroni is one of the few cocktails whose story can actually be traced back. Although it came to prominence in the early to mid-20th century, the roots of the drink go back to the 1860s. At that time, Milan’s Caffe Camparino served with a cocktail called the Milano Torinio, which was a simple fusion of Campari and Cinzano Sweet Vermouth. When Americans flocked to Europe during Prohibition, they preferred the bitter aperitif watered down with a little Soda Water, and it was so popular that the locals dubbed it the Americano.
Years later, a local Count, Camillo Negroni who had a known fondness for Americano cocktails, asked a bartender to add some more bite to the drink. The bartender replaced the Soda Water with a nip of Gin and the Negroni cocktail was born.
Why is it so popular?
It wasn’t long until the Negroni became synonymous with la dolce vita—the period of sophisticated decadence at the height of the Italian cinematic boom – and soon the drink became a metaphor for a refined and glamorous life.
The drink was so popular that in Ian Fleming’s 1953 For Your Eyes Only short story collection, James Bond even ordered one instead of his famous shaken, not stirred Martini at a bar in Rome while meeting a Russian spy.
For several decades, the Negroni remained a quiet classic but once the cocktail revival began, the renewed interest in Gin and Bitters propelled the Negroni back into the spotlight.
If the bitterness is too much of an acquired taste, then we suggest easing into the family with a Negroni cousin, a Negroni Sbagliato. For a lighter tipple and a little but fizzy, the drink is made with Sweet Vermouth, Campari, and fruity Prosecco. It’s a bit lower in alcohol than the gin version, so it’s especially nice for daytime drinking.
What’s the big deal?
Today, the Negroni is very much the ‘it’ cocktail and for good reason. It is not only an extremely well-crafted aperitif, but the Negroni has become a favourite due to its perfect balance of alcoholic strength, bitterness, sweetness, and citrus flavours.
Combining in equal parts a kick of Gin, the bitter character of Campari and the round smoothness of Vermouth, this cocktail is truly greater than the sum of its parts. It’s easy to make, easy to remember, but its probably the fool-proof nature that has truly given it such universal appeal. The Negroni is one of those drinks that is a hard drink to make badly, and even if the ratios do change, the drink tends to work quite well anyway.
What’s with the variations?
It’s the simplicity of the Negroni’s trio of flavours that has made it something of a blank canvas for bartenders around the world. Experimentation ranges from the basic, where Tequila (a Tegroni) or Rum (a Rum Negroni) is swapped out for Gin or quite complex with an esoteric range of liqueurs and aperitifs utilized.
Campari will say that there is no Negroni without Campari and o the whole they are right but there are a few variations, such as the White Negroni (Gin, Blanco Vermouth & Suze) or an Unusual Negroni (Aperol, Lillet Blanc & Gin) show that there are some exceptions to the rule. Here are 7 variations to the Negroni (most with Campari) that are well worth giving a try.
- 30 ml Campari
- 30 ml Sweet Vermouth
- 30 ml Gin
- Fill old fashioned glass with good ice.
- Add equal parts Campari, Sweet Vermouth and Gin and stir well.
- Garnish with a slice of orange.