Negroni Week: Cocktails & Community

Fine & Rare Luxury Negroni Sbagliato cocktail
The $1,250 Luxury Negroni Sbagliato at Fine & Rare. Image: Fine & Rare. Negroni flight image courtesy of the Flatiron Room.

Negroni Week is all about raising money and awareness for charitable causes. The global promotion, which runs from June 4 through June 10, is also a great opportunity to show off your bar team's cocktail-building skills, as the Negroni is deceptively simple. It's a cocktail made with just three ingredients (not including the garnish) in equal parts. Throw off the balance and you've failed to capture the spirit of the original recipe.

Revered mixologist Tony Abou-Ganim is likely the world’s greatest proponent of this classic and has addressed its history on more than one occasion. To assist you in creating a signature Negroni all your own, let's run through the storied past of this beautiful, bitter beverage.

The Negroni: A Family History

The Milano-Torino a.k.a. Mi-To is the precursor to the Negroni. Fill an Old Fashioned glass with ice, add equal parts Campari and sweet vermouth, and stir. Another predecessor is the Americano, which is as simple as adding a splash of soda and a half slice of orange to a Mi-To.

That brings us to the Negroni itself, equal parts Campari, gin and sweet vermouth, garnished with an orange slice. The gin you select will have an impact on the final product, so experiment to put your signature on it. Replace the gin in a Negroni with sparkling wine and you’ve made a Negroni Sbagliato, Italian for “mistaken.” Consider its creation a happy accident.

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What the four cocktails above have in common is balance. These builds call for equal parts of the main ingredients and that’s a big reason they’re so enjoyable. Balance is key to the cocktail experience regardless of what you're making and serving your geusts. That said, there are two Negroni family members that don’t call for equal parts yet are balanced flavor-wise. You can use them as examples and inspiration if you choose to abandon the equal parts model for your own version.

Tequila lovers will appreciate the Rosita, the result of combining 1.5 oz. of tequila, 1 oz. of Campari, a half-ounce each of both dry and sweet vermouths, a dash of Angostura bitters, and both orange and lemon swaths. Finally, there’s one of my personal favorites, the Boulevardier. You’ll need 1.25 oz. of high-rye bourbon (examples are Four Roses Single Barrel, Bulleit, Basil Hayden’s or Old Grand Dad), 1 oz. Campari, and 1 oz. Cinzano 1757 to make one. Add the ingredients to a rocks glass filled with ice, stir, and garnish with an orange twist.

Negroni for a Cause

However, Negroni Week isn't just about nailing the eponymous cocktail every time for your guests. Participating bars and restaurants are encouraged to create a signature Negroni variant of their own. Just remember that the original version is an exercise in simplicity and balance: try to keep that in mind when you're creating your own.

Participating in Negroni Week couldn't be simpler. You just register your bar, select from a list of official charity partners, and make a donation. You then decide which Negroni, Negronis or Negroni flights you plan to offer your guests to raise money for the charity you chose, and encourage your guests to make a purchase. Both you and your guests get to raise money for a great cause, your guest also gets to enjoy a fantastic cocktail, and your bar staff gets to create and serve a tasty variant.

An Expensive "Mistake"

One Negroni variant that's making a huge impact is the Luxury Negroni Sbagliato available at Fine & Rare in NYC. The ingredients are top shelf and the price tag is certainly newsworthy: $1,250. Fine & Rare has chosen to support Children Of Restaurant Employees (CORE), the official charity partner of Nightclub & Bar. $1,000 of every Luxury Negroni Sbagliato sold at Fine & Rare goes to CORE. You'll find the recipe below.

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Of course, you don't have to price your Negroni as high as Fine & Rare has...unless you think a portion of your guests will be happy to donate that amount. You know your guests, you know what causes they would like to support, and you know what they would be comfortable donating to a charity. Price your specialty Negroni accordingly and make certain to use ingredients that reflect the price. Will they spend $10 over the typical cost of one of your cocktails? What about $20? $100? This is for charity—price your Negroni(s) fairly and communicate how important it is that you raise as much money as possible.

The Negroni Takes Flight

Another method for encouraging your guests to open up their wallets for a charitable cause is to offer Negroni flights during your Negroni Week promotion. That's exactly what one of the world's best whiskey bars, the Flatiron Room, is putting on its menu for Negroni Week, and you can do the same.

The Flatiron Room Negroni flight is priced at $75. The price is not only fair, it's an intelligent way to inspire groups of guests to participate in this charitable promotion. Each Negroni included is imbued with a different level of bitterness, which also encourages groups of guests to pass them around, find which is their preference, and order that variant for themselves (with a portion or all of the proceeds going to charity).

The Flatiron Room Negroni Week Negroni flight

The least bitter Flatiron Room Negroni in the flight is the Sparkling Negroni, made with gin, Campari and sweet vermouth. It's paired with cucumber and Ikura topped with salmon roe caviar. More bitter ("bitterer" for the English nerds) is the Smoking Boulevardier, which is served alongside a turkey meatball with bourbon barbecue sauce. And then there's the most bitter ("bitterest" if you like to use less common words) of the trio, the Grappa Negroni. This variant is made with grappa, Campari, Lillet Blanc and orange juice. As with the other two, it comes with a bite: a chocolate truffle, green tea powder and dehydrated orange peel.

Your flight can be as involved or simple as you like. If you want to serve your guests the history of the Negroni in a flight, consider offering a Milano-Torino, Americano and Negroni. Should you plan to create a signature, think about serving it alongside a traditional Negroni and a Sbagliato. If you have a kitchen, bring your back of house into this promotion and have them create bites to pair with your flights. Hell, call it that one the menu: Negroni Week Bites & Flights.

Negroni Week is the time to let your community know what's important to you, involve them in a charitable cause, and let your front and back of house shine. Cheers!

Fine & Rare Luxury Negroni Sbagliato cocktail

Fine & Rare Luxury Negroni Sbagliato, $1,250

Recipe and image courtesy of Fine & Rare in NYC

  • Equal part NOLET’S Reserve Gin
  • Equal part Campari
  • Equal part Champagne Armand de Brignac Brut Rose (Ace of Spades)
  • Gold-flaked ice cube
  • Dash orange bitters
  • Orange zest to garnish

Place gold flake in cocktail coupe. Add gin and Campari, then add Ace of Spades. Add orange bitters to taste. Garnish and serve.

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