Category Archives: Negroni

Negroni Week: An occasion to enjoy this classic cocktail AND feel good about it

Michael Reith, Sissy's Southern Kitchen
At Sissy’s Southern Kitchen, former bar manager Michael Reith rotated his barrel for a week with sweet sherry before setting his Negroni variation to age.


Negroni Week is underway, and as summer creeps ever closer it’s time to make this legendary ruby-red cocktail your wingman for the next few months. Bittersweet and refreshing, it’s one of my personal favorites, and while any decent bar with a bottle of Campari can generally cobble one together, this week is extra special: It’s all for a good cause.

As drinks go, this is Kirk, Spock and McCoy (or hey, if you like, Harry, Ron and Hermione). The complementary trio of equal parts gin, sweet vermouth and lush, bitter Campari dates back to early 20th-century Italy and has inspired a host of variations; you can enjoy the original and its spawn through Sunday at bars across Dallas-Fort Worth and feel extra good about the fact that your hard-earned dollars are going to charity.

High and Tight
At High and Tight, Austin Gurley’s Negroni variation: Bols genever, Cocchi di Torino, Campari, orange, lime, vanilla.

Now in its fifth year, Negroni Week, presented by Imbibe magazine and Campari, has a hashtag and a flashy web site with a super-cool feature: You can specify your global location, set your acceptable travel range (yes! Drive 150 miles for a Negroni if you wish!) and be given a list of participating bars. There are 95 such venues within a 15-mile radius of Dallas, for instance, so there’s really no excuse not to drink and donate.

Between 2013 and 2016, the effort has grown from 100 participating venues to about 6,000 worldwide, raising nearly $900,000 in the process for charities such as Mercy Corps, Water for People, United Cerebral Palsy and the New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic. In Texas, the recipient is Trigger’s Toys, which serves long-term hospitalized kids and their families.

Among the participating venues – you can find a full list here – in Dallas are the Time Out Tavern, Americano, Lounge Here, The Mirador, Sprezza, Oddfellows and The Cedars Social. In Fort Worth, you’ve got Rodeo Goat, Proper and Cork and Pig Tavern. Among others. Even Ruth’s Chris Steak House is getting into the action.

Three really is a magic number!

If there was ever a time to celebrate the Negroni, National Negroni Week is it

National Negroni Week
It’s National Negroni Week. Why aren’t you celebrating?

The Negroni is among the most perfect of cocktails, a happy triumvirate of gin, sweet vermouth and the Italian bitter liqueur Campari that appeals to the bittersweet lover in you. It works as a handy aperitif or a dependable go-to, and it’s got some legs: The recipe dates back to at least the 1950s, though its rumored origins trace back to 1919, when the Italian Count Negroni asked for a variation on the Americano to be made with gin instead of club soda.

As consummate bar man Rocco Milano once said, “It’s a drink that’s greater than the sum of its parts, because they have an amplifying effect.”

That they do. Master bartender Gary Regan calls the Negroni one of the world’s finest drinks. “The balance is of primary importance in a Negroni,” he writes in The Joy of Mixology. “Using equal parts of each ingredient is absolutely necessary to achieve perfection.”

It’s also a drink that oh so willingly lends itself to multiple variations. Sub mezcal for gin and you’ve got a smoky Negroni; use bourbon and you’ve got a Boulevardier. Fancy up your sweet vermouth with Carpano Antica for some extra zing. And so on. It’s a versatile vehicle for your whims.

Which is all the more reason to celebrate the currently ongoing National Negroni Week, as proclaimed by Imbibe magazine. And it’s for a good cause – participating bars are offering the classic drink at special prices this week, with the proceeds benefiting the charity or cause of their choice: At Dallas’ Black Swan Saloon, it’s the ALS Association’s Texas chapter; at Henry’s Majestic, it’s Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children. Other participating bars include Proof + Pantry, Dish Preston Hollow, Twenty Seven, Victor Tango’s, Nickel and Rye, Libertine Bar and HG Sply Co.

Get over there and try the Negroni or some variation therein. (At Henry’s Majestic, cocktail guru Alex Fletcher cooked up a Campari infused with dried currant and golden raisin, for example.)  Personally, I recommend having one on the rocks with an orange twist and a dash of Pacific Ocean.


It’s National Negroni Week. Why aren’t you celebrating?

Negroni at Private/Social
Why isn’t every week National Negroni Week?

In case you hadn’t noticed, you have two days left to celebrate National Negroni Week — as proclaimed by none other than Imbibe magazine, which earned brownie points earlier this year by making the Lone Star State its cover story.

The other reason I’m perfectly willing to heed the publication’s call is that the classic bittersweet cocktail is among my pantheon of favorite go-to drinks, a perfect equal-parts blend of gin, sweet vermouth and, most important, the Italian aperitif Campari. It’s the Campari that provides the Negroni’s bitter undercurrent, and that undercurrent is the essence of the drink: As I’ve said before, you can switch the ingredients and keep the delicately balanced proportions the same but I balk at calling anything without Campari a Negroni. Variations on the Negroni are many (and welcome), but they are exactly that: variations on the Negroni.

The Negroni’s balance is not as nuanced, nor does it take as much skill, as, say, the equally classic Aviation, but its one-two-three punch does showcase each ingredient. “You can’t do it with Martini & Rossi and well gin,” says Private/Social’s Rocco Milano. “It’s a drink that’s greater than the sum of its parts, because they have an amplifying effect.”

With that in mind, and to give you more options, here are a few of my favorite variations.

Some time back at Private/Social, Milano crafted for me a fine mix of St. George’s aggressive Terroir gin, the vintage-style aperitif Gran Classico and the classy vermouth Carpano Antica. Then, very recently, he topped it by subbing the floral Leopold’s Navy Strength Gin for St. George’s (shown below). A third, truer version (photo above) featured Campari, Dolin Rouge and St. George’s Dry Rye gin, poured over an ice sphere.

Negroni at Private/Social
A Negroni variation with Leopold’s Navy Strength Gin, Gran Classico and Carpano Antica.

Meanwhile, Lark on the Park is one of the bright new lights on the cocktail scene, and bar manager Matt Orth put a notable, bitter-forward spin on the Negroni by using not one but two bitter apertifs – the Italian vintage-style Gran Classico and the French, gentian-flavored Suze – along with the botanical spirit Sage, from Art in the Age. All equal proportions, naturally – and because my palate does cartwheels for bitter (and in particular Suze), completely delicious.

Matt Orth
Matt Orth of Lark on the Park, doing one of the many things that Matt Orth can do.

Muh-muh-muh-my…. Negroni

In the early stages of my ongoing evolutionary stumble toward cocktail geekdom, the Negroni was probably fourth or fifth. One at a time, I discovered certain drinks and clung onto them like handholds amid the fray as I felt my way around this dizzying new world beyond beer and simple mixed drinks — the Martini, the Vesper, the Aviation.

Somewhere along the way I found the Negroni,  a classic cocktail that remains entrenched in the pantheon of drinks I return to again and again at home and beyond, solid as an Iron Chef under the spotlight.

Campari is its heart — yes, Campari, the brilliant red Italian aperitif with the distinctively bitter character. For some, the familiar bottle conjures images of grandpa’s liquor shelf — the Negroni dates back to at least the 1950s — but I’m already sensitive enough about the white hairs starting to muscle their way into the thicket atop my head. You don’t need to compare me to Christopher Plummer.

This kinda sorta happened the other night when I popped into my local watering hole and considered the bartender’s offer to spice up my basic gin and tonic with a splash of Campari.

“Campari?” a woman nearby said. “Isn’t that an old man’s drink?”

I was aghast. You should be too. Call it bitter — hell, call me bitter — but don’t call it that.

The apertif’s forceful flavor is not for everyone, but it’s not mean like Grappa. It starts out smooth but develops into something far more edgy, the stylish guy who shows up at a party and destroys everyone at the pool table before disappearing into the night. Who was that guy? everyone asks. That was Campari.

You can top it with club soda, or you can mix it with wine or orange juice. Balanced with sweet vermouth and held at bay by club soda, it becomes an Americano.

For me, though, it’s the Negroni that captures Campari’s best qualities.

Consummate mixologist Gary Regan calls the Negroni one of the world’s finest drinks. While legend has it that around 1919, a certain Count Negroni asked an Italian bartender to make an Americano using gin for club soda, the earliest recipes Regan could find for it surface around 1955.

Equal parts Campari, gin and sweet vermouth, garnished with an orange twist, it’s one of the simplest drinks to make — and yet one of the easiest to spoil, a delicate dance of bitter and sweet that can easily come off as too much of one or the other.

“The balance is of primary importance in a Negroni,” Regan writes in The Joy of Mixology. “Using equal part of each ingredient is absolutely necessary to achieve perfection.”

It’s one of the drinks I’ll order when trying out a new bar — or specifically, a new bartender. While variations exist — Dallas’ Private/Social makes a luscious one with a fantastically delicious, prime-quality vermouth — I believe Campari is its essence.

As my friend Ryan, a fellow cocktail enthusiast, pointed out the other day, carried a recipe for something called an “East Indian Negroni.” It subbed rum for gin, sherry for vermouth and Luxardo bitter liqueur for Campari. Is that still a Negroni? More like a Ne-phony, if you ask me.

J.W. Tate, the guy behind the craft cocktail program at Tate’s in Dallas, calls the Negroni “the essence of life.” “It’s not obnoxiously strong,” he says. “There’s a lot of layers there. It’s the best drink there is.”

— Marc Ramirez