It’s officially Negroni Week. Now, we don't usually honor these seemingly made-up holidays (i.e. “National taco day”), but this isn't some random marketing scheme. For the last decade, restaurants and bars across the country (and around the world) have honored the classic cocktail while raising funds for various charities worldwide.
In fact, Negroni Week has grown from about just a few specialty bars to thousands of venues around the globe, and to date, the initiative has raised over $3 million for charitable organizations. That's something we can definitely get behind. Interestingly, it's a drink that's often associated with summer lounging. But that's probably due to its louche Italian origins. Aperitivo is, for all intents and purposes, Italy's take on happy hour. But it is also a state of mind—a sort of devil-may-care moment in the day when you slow down and appreciate the little things. The drinks are meant to be sipped, in preparation of a meal.
The Negroni has become the patron saint of the aperitivo. And also the drink of choice for stylish guys everywhere. “There is rarely such a thing as a bad Negroni, which may hold the key to its popularity,” says the dapper Matt Hranek, who literally wrote the book about the cocktail and admits he currently has more photos of the ruby red drink on his phone than of his own family.
The nice thing about a potent sipper like a Negroni is that it's easy to make and just one will do you. Serve it like the Italians do, with a small snack like some mixed nuts or even a few plain potato chips (the saltiness balances the bitter, bracing flavors of the cocktail). “Generally, I do not deviate from ordering the standard recipe and have been known to give Negroni-making lessons to bartenders and flight attendants,” says Hranek. “That being said, I do approve of some riffs—within moderation, of course.”
And now's the time to experiment. Find a participating bar to try a fresh take on the tipple. “It's basically a pub crawl for a good cause with an Italian twist,” says Helena Lombard, food and drinks expert at The Mixer. She says the 1:1:1 ratio of gin, vermouth and Campari makes it essentially foolproof, “but if a bitter-forward Negroni isn't your cup of tea, there are loads of other variations you can try that are just as simple and satisfying.” We asked her for a few of her favorite riffs and here's what she suggests.
4 Variations on the Negroni Cocktail
“This Negroni swaps out the gin for a spicy rye whiskey, and replaces the sweet vermouth with Cinzano Vermouth Extra Dry. Add Campari to the mix and you have a cocktail that's spicy, dry and bitter with lovely notes of rye whiskey, making for a complex drink for a sophisticated evening with discerning drinkers.”
“This slushy drink shot to fame over the last two years and is part of the Aperitiki trend (tiki drinks mixed with Italy's iconic bitter flavors). Just replace the gin with white rum and add a splash of pineapple juice. There are different variations on this one—from coconut, passionfruit and even strawberry flavors, the herbaceous citrus character of the Campari is a great match for tropical flavors.”
“Mezcal is big right now. This Negroni has a smoky twist and is named after the largest producing region of this popular Mexican spirit. Simply swap the gin with mezcal. You'll be surprised how one small twist creates an entirely different-tasting cocktail. Smoky, slightly earthy and downright delicious.”
Cold Brew Negroni
“This recipe leaves out the Campari and replaces it with the same amount of cold-brew coffee for a little caffeine kick. The recipe calls for one ounce of each gin, sweet vermouth and coffee, served on ice and garnished with a dried orange slice.”
Just because you’re off alcohol doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy a bracing aperitivo. The St. Agrestis Phony Negroni offers similar nuanced juniper, citrus and floral notes—they have even added a touch of carbonation to help mimic the bite that alcohol typically provides.
Phony Negroni bottles, $55.99 (for a 12-pack) by St. Agrestis
NOTE: Items featured in this story are independently selected by the editorial team. Purchasing via our links may earn Valet. a portion of the sale, which helps fund our editorial mission.
The Smart Way to Start Your Day
The Daily Valet. is your cheat sheet to what you need to know right now. Never feel caught off guard again.