The negroni—once an underground apertif cocktail favored by “in the know” American drinkers; now a staple at almost any corner bar worth its salt. No other classic cocktail has seen its stature rise so quickly or popularly in the last five years, as the negroni has gone from a “bartender’s cocktail” to something so common it doesn’t even need to appear on a menu—you can always assume that the bar can make one for you, as long as they have a bottle of Campari (or in a pinch, Aperol) on hand. Every bar has the other two necessary implements: Gin and sweet vermouth.
In terms of the cocktail’s meteoric rise in American pop culture, it must be assumed that Negroni Week played a big part. The successful promotion created by Imbibe and Campari was a clever way of promoting both the cocktail and the many negroni variations that exist, while also benefiting charities and spurring the creation of many new negroni variants. Since the first Negroni Week in 2013, the event has grown rapidly, from a mere 100 participating locations to more than 6,000 around the world, raising almost $1 million for charities in the process. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.
The 2017 iteration of Negroni Week runs June 5-11 all over the world. In order to find interesting negroni variants near you, you can simply punch in your zip code on the website, which offers a helpful map of all the participating locations in your area. Some have already registered what kinds of negronis they’ll be making, and which charities will benefit.
In honor of the arrival of Negroni Week 2017, I thought I would take a look around Atlanta for some of the city’s more interesting negronis. Having lived in the ATL for a few years, I can report that its cocktail culture is top notch, and on par with many other metropolitan world cities. Here are some of the interesting negroni variants found throughout ATL this year, with full, included recipes whenever possible.
One Eared Stag
Name: OES Negroni
Charity: The Giving Kitchen
One Eared Stag, and upscale American eatery and bar in Atlanta, keeps things simple with this take on what is more or less a classic negroni recipe. Traditionally, a negroni would be made with equal parts gin, vermouth and the brightly red, bitterly herbaceous Campari, but OES tweaks things slightly by swapping out some of the Campari for Don Ciccio Cinque Apertivo, a similar bitter orange peel apertif, presumably for added complexity. Regardless, this is a good “classic negroni” to kick things off.
.75 oz. American Dry Gin (Stillpond 229)
.75 oz. sweet vermouth (La Quintinye Rouge)
.5 oz. Don Ciccio Cinque Aperitivo
.5 oz Campari
1 dash Orange Bitters
Stirred, rocks glass, king cube, orange peel
Cooks & Soldiers
Name: Talian Alpine
Charity: WILD Foundation
This upscale basque tapas restaurant on the Westside of Atlanta is known for its inventive dishes and drinks, and unsurprisingly it has gone in head-over-heels on negroni week, with not one but three different variations that are all far off the beaten path. The Talian Alpine below strikes me as interesting; a deviation that is about as far as you can go from “negroni” while still retaining some of the same inspiration. Featuring rye whiskey, you’d say it was closer to a “boulevardier,” which is a negroni with the gin swapped out for bourbon or rye, but it also replaces the Campari with pungent (but equally bitter) Braulio Amaro, noted for its strong menthol quality. Combined with the in-your-face attitude of Punt E Mes vermouth, I imagine this drink isn’t screwing around. Note: The one thing it preserves is the old-school 1oz/1oz/1oz ratio.
1.0 oz Rye
1.0 oz Punt E Mes
1.0 Braulio Amaro
served on a rock with an orange garnish
Old 4th Distillery
Name: Old 4th Negroni
Charity: No Kid Hungry
Old Fourth/4th is an Atlanta distillery producing a wide range of spirits, which gives them an immediate leg up in the gin portion of the drink—they can simply use their own Old 4th Gin. They teamed up for Negroni Week with local cocktail bitter company 18.21 Bitters, making a truly local Atlanta negroni by making use of 18.21’s White Jasmine and Grapefruit Shrub. A “shrub,” if you haven’t heard the term, is essentially a vinegar-based cocktail syrup that can be infused with a variety of fruits or spices and used in numerous cocktail applications. Seeing a shrub in a drink typically implies a certain degree of acidity.
Also note: The use of “Suze, Aveze or Salers,” three varieties of light-colored gentian root liqueur, along with the use of dry vermouth, means this negroni will be lacking the bright red color typically associated with the drink. In fact, this type of variation is common enough that they’re now referred to as a “white negroni.”
1 1/2oz Gin
1 oz Blanc Vermouth
3/4oz Suze, Aveze, or Salers
1/4oz 18.21 White Jasmine and Grapefruit Shrub.
Stir all ingredients with ice until chilled, and serve over a large ice cube with a grapefruit peel.
One of the keys to your white negroni, Suze.
The Iberian Pig
Name: The Battle of Wörth
Charity: Arbor Day Foundation
Here we have a creamier, richer spin on the negroni, from Decatur, GA Spanish tapas restaurant The Iberian Pig. In construction, it’s quite similar to New Orleans’ famous Ramos Gin Fizz, but the addition of the Campari surely adds a bitter edge to the drink. From the bar manager:
“This one is one of my favorites from our Negroni week list. Visually it is very similar to a Ramos Gin Fizz but pink due to the Campari and cream. Bitter and rich with subtle floral notes, it is definitely an awesome beginning or end to a night of indulgence.”
.75 Cocchi Torino
.5 Heavy Cream
.25 Orange flower water
1 Egg white
Shaken with egg white and cream
Name: The Gin-Netic Jackhammer
Charity: No Kid Hungry
I’m hoping and praying that “gin-netic jackhammer” is some kind of sly reference to the WWE’s Vince McMahon—if it is, then it’s safe to say that the secret wrestling fans at this Atlanta Italian tapas restaurant have officially won Negroni Week, right off the bat.
This cocktail is keeping things simple, crisp and approachable, with only three ingredients. The Campari has been swapped out for the lower ABV and less bitter Casoni 1814, which is a bit more comparable to Aperol, whereas the sweet vermouth has been replaced with the aromatic but less sweet Lillet. All in all, this one sounds like a very dangerously drinkable, less bitter (although gin-heavy) take on the negroni to me. You might call this the martini-drinker’s negroni.
1 Lillet Blanc
.75 Casoni 1814
Name: Behold Our Pale Horse
Charity: The Giving Kitchen
The Bookhouse is a local Atlanta favorite for elevated pub grub and sneaky-good cocktails; the kind of place where you can drink domestic beer just as easily as a giant Tiki cocktail in a ceramic shark’s head. Their Negroni Week drink is another take on the “white negroni,” superficially similar to the one from Old 4th Distilling. To quote the bar manager, who didn’t want to reveal too much:
It features Death’s Door gin as the primary base. Death’s door is an American gin, coming to us from Washinton Island, WI. Death’s Door being the etymology of our name for the cocktail, because cocktails should be playful. Carpano Bianco is a vermouth using trebbiano, cortese, and chardonnay grapes. Saler’s aperitif is a gentian-based French liqueur; the vegetal/root-iness. We deviate from the standard 1:1:1 formula of the Classic Negroni in order to achieve a balanced cocktail that hits all the receptors.
My personal spin, with all the caffeine your negroni has been missing.
Bonus: Jim’s personal negroni
Name: Cafe Boulevardier
Confession time: I really don’t drink the classic negroni much. For my taste, the 1/1/1 ratio of gin, vermouth and Campari is decidedly too dry and too bitter, as a result of being dominated by the strongly flavored Campari. As far as the classic style of negroni goes, I would at least halve the Campari portion. But my own version of this drink goes much further in the variations, and is based off a drink from Decatur, GA comic book bar My Parents Basement, called the “My Morning Groni.” That drink, from last year’s Negroni Week, incorporated fresh brewed coffee as an addition. Me being a whiskey drinker first and foremost, I decided to additionally change it into a boulevardier by swapping the gin for bourbon, while retaining the orange bitters and Campari. To amp things up even more, I’ve swapped in a small batch coffee liqueur instead of fresh brewed coffee. Voila: The Cafe Boulevardier, which combines the richness and caramelization of American bourbon with sweet, roasty coffee and a balancing hit of bitterness from the Campari. You’re welcome, negroni adventurers.
3 parts bourbon (I prefer the richness/fullness of bourbon over rye here)
1 part sweet vermouth
1 part Campari
1 part coffee liqueur (I used House Spirits Stumptown Coffee Liqueur)
1-2 dashes orange bitters
Either shake over ice and serve in a double old fashioned glass with a large ice cube, or shake over ice and serve up in a martini glass or coupe. Either way, garnish with a strip of orange peel.
With all of these choices, surely you can find time to enjoy a negroni this week.
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and cocktail tinkerer. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink content.