Negroni Week

Local bars prepare specialty Negroni cocktails and raise money for charity

May 28, 2014 at 11:03 am

click to enlarge Kaze Negroni
Kaze Negroni

The Negroni has been called an “indispensable cocktail” by Esquire magazine cocktail expert David Wondrich and is frequently referred to as “the perfect dinner cocktail” because its bitterness acts as an apéritif. Plus, it features two of summer’s signature liquors — gin and Campari — sweetened and mellowed with vermouth, making it an excellent choice for warm weather. And yet many cocktail enthusiasts have never ordered one. Time to change that — and benefit worthy causes, too. 

During international Negroni Week (June 2-8), bars around the world will be mixing up variations of the Negroni cocktail and donating a portion of their proceeds to charities of their choice. Locally, a dollar from every Negroni ordered at participating bars will benefit some great local charities.

Negroni Week started in Portland, Ore., in 2011, when bartenders there wanted to “give back” to their community. In 2013, the Campari brand and Imbibe Magazine got onboard, sponsoring the idea and marketing it as a global event. The United States Bartenders’ Guild got involved this year, and district “teams” are competing to see who can raise the most dollars. Campari will donate an additional $10,000 to the charity selected by the USBG chapter that beats the rest.

Lindsay Laubenstein, vice president of the Southern Ohio Bartenders’ Guild, says 24 bars from her chapter are participating this year. In Cincinnati, Igby’s, Arnold’s, The Lackman, Righteous Room, Kaze, Below Zero, the Pavilion and Neons will donate $1 from each Negroni — or Negroni variation — served during the first week of June.

“Since Negronis are somewhat of an acquired taste, some of the bars will do variations on the classic,” Laubenstein says. “For example, at Mt. Adams Pavilion, they’ll do frozen Negronis.”

The Pavilion, Igby’s, Righteous Room and The Lackman have selected St. Joseph’s Home, a comprehensive behavioral health and educational treatment agency for children, as their sponsored charity. St. Joseph’s has been a lifesaver for families, including families of medically fragile children whose special care makes moments of respite almost impossible to find. It’s a very worthy cause.

The other participating bars have selected causes dear to their hearts as well. Below Zero’s funds will go to Cincinnati PRIDE, Arnold’s will support ArtWorks and Kaze’s donation will go to the Constella Festival of Music and Fine Arts.

Neons will be supporting Save the Animals Foundation. “We chose the Save the Animal Foundation for our charity because Neons is a dog-friendly bar,” says bartender Sara Cox. “We are always holding adoption days and events to support our furry little friends. “

Cox, along with fellow mixologist Alexandra Frederick, developed a special Negroni for the week.

“It’s an infused vanilla bean and rose petal barrel-aged Negroni,” Cox says. “We used Watershed’s bourbon-barrel-aged gin, Campari and Antica vermouth infused with a hint of rose petal and vanilla beans. It’s garnished with a pink grapefruit twist. “

The Negroni, legend says, was named for the Italian count who first asked for a stronger variation of an Americano. The simplest Negroni — sans recipe — is equal parts gin, Campari and sweet vermouth. Esquire’s Wondrich prescribes a 2:1:1 ratio, purposefully upping the “oomph” of the drink without changing the flavor.

The most distinctive flavor in a Negroni comes from the Campari, a moderately bitter apéritif. Campari used to be found only in clubs with what was then called “Continental” flair. Nowadays, it’s standard. Sweet vermouth can be found everywhere but suffers if not stored properly.

If you order a Negroni and the bartender doesn’t get the vermouth out of the cooler, it won’t be the best cocktail you’ve ever had. As for the gin, a London dry gin will work just fine, although some recipes — usually written by the distiller — call for pricier craft gins.

If you leave out the gin and add a splash of soda, you’ve got the original Americano — the drink Count Negroni enhanced. It’s usually served with an orange slice garnish.

Find more recipes for Negroni variations on the NEGRONI WEEK website at, as well as a list of all participating local bars and their charities of choice.