Cocktail of the Week: Negroni

We love it when there are seven whole days dedicated to drinking a cocktail! Come through, Negroni Week, come through. Let’s get bitter! From the 18th to the 24th of September, bars across the world will be pouring their way through bottles of gin, vermouth and Campari as they stir up a storm for a good cause. Negroni Week was the brainchild of Campari and Imbibe, who devised a way to get people sipping the classic concoction while raising money for charity. This year, funds are being directed toward Slow Food, a global movement focused on sustainability, equity, diversity, education and nourishment. Fittingly, the Slow Food movement began in Italy, birthplace of the iconic Negroni.

Are you sitting comfortably with your delicious Negroni in hand? Great, ‘cause here comes the learning. Like with pretty much all “classics”, the exact origin of the cocktail is debated, however it is widely attributed to Count Camillo Negroni (and we feel like if it carries the man’s name, it must be a legit… right?!).

bartender squeezes an orange to top off a negroni in crystal glass. on the right, there is a negroni recipe Classic Negroni 

1 oz Dillion’s Dry Gin 7
1 oz Campari
1 oz Sweet Vermouth

Stir with ice in a mixing glass, strain over a king cube or ice sphere in a tumbler, garnish with orange peel.

The legend goes like this: in 1919, booze-y Count Camillio, a frequent patron of the Caffè Casoni in Florence, wanted a stronger sip than his usual Americano (vermouth, Italian bitter, soda water). He reportedly asked bartender Forsco Scarselli to switch out the water for gin. Ballsy. Ballsier still, Count Camillo Negroni and his family were so enamoured with the blend that they subsequently created the Negroni Distillery, becoming early pioneers of pre-mixed ready-to-drink cocktails with their “Antico Negroni”.

Enter Orson Welles. It takes an icon to make an icon, right? The beloved American filmmaker was on location in Rome when he tried the Italian cocktail, famously remarking: “The bitters are excellent for your liver. The gin is bad for you. They balance each other out.” Wise. Welles’ eager adoption of the bold red sip influenced American drinking culture, spreading the reach of the Negroni out from Italy and across the Atlantic.

And, just when you thought the Insta-trend was over, we’re raising sbagliato chat from the dead. (Lord, have mercy.) The Negroni sbagliato was also born in Italy, this time in 1967 at Bar Basso in Milan. Sbagliato is Italian for ‘mistaken,’ and that is exactly what it was: a mistake. A happy accident saw an over-worked bartender pour prosecco into the cocktail mix instead of gin, de-boozifying the sip once more. Rather than complain about the botched job, the customer on the receiving end of the effervescent error declared they loved it and a new twist was born.

While the sbagliato never quite infiltrated the liquid zeitgeist, it saw a grand resurgence last year thanks to a viral TikTok from House of the Dragon’s Emma D’Arcy. The star describes her favourite cocktail, the Negroni spagliato, in a curiously sensual voice to co-star Olivia Cooke (who, by the way, prefers a martini). After the video was posted, spagliato cocktail recipes skyrocketed on Instagram and TikTok, and the variation was a popular menu feature in bars for at least a month thereafter.

Another popular variation on the swill is the in-vogue white Negroni, a twist that sees Lillet Blanc and Suze in place of sweet vermouth and Campari. Purists will, of course, decry the mix and we’re sort of empathetic to their cause; it might well be tasty, but the beauty of a true Negroni is in the simplicity and balance of three core ingredients.

Fancy a Negroni but don’t want to invest in all the bottles to make one yourself (or just don’t have the time)? You’ll be seeing a lot of them on bar menus this week, but you can also find ready-mixed offerings at liquor stores. We adore the cute four pack offering from Canadian distillers, Dillion’s. 125ml bottles offer the perfectly diluted pour; all you need is a nice glass, some big ice and a little orange peel: easy. Happy Negroni week, pals — may we all channel our inner Orson Welles. Cheers!