When it comes to gin cocktails, the Martini reigns supreme in people’s minds, followed closely by the Gin and Tonic. Both are classics, clear enough to look like it contains gin, and actually tastes like the botanical spirit. But from June 6 to 12, the world will be celebrating the Negroni, the other legendary gin cocktail that’s often forgotten. After all, it looks like a whisky cocktail and the equal parts of gin, Campari and vermouth will leave first timers struggling to discern what they’re tasting.
Use the arrow / swipe left to right to preview some of the Negroni cocktails
That is the beauty of the Negroni. Like almost all classics, the Negroni climbed its way to the top of cocktail culture with just three ingredients. And the Negroni’s holy trinity makes it sweet, bitter and herbaceous all at once, with no one flavour overpowering the other.
It’s thanks to this drink that Italy was put on the map of mixology at all. It’s a country where the primary reason for drinking is eating, which explains the abundance of wines for pairing and liqueurs for apertivos and digestivos. (Cocktails on the other hand, were largely left to thirsty Americans and Cubans.) And it is one particular liqueur, Campari, that characterises the Negroni.
Campari’s signature bitterness is the Negroni’s biggest barrier to entry, inviting only sophisticated palates to come and sip. It’s also not a gentle cocktail by any means, as there’s nothing to cover up the bite of gin. It’s surprisingly complex despite its simple makeup and belongs at the grownup’s table. So the Negroni is rarely anyone’s first cocktail but it often becomes everyone’s favourite (go ahead and ask any bartender or chef). So when you’re done with the fresh and bright cocktails of your youth, settle down for this discriminating, bittersweet sunset.
One of the reasons bartenders love Negronis is that it welcomes tinkering. Each ingredient can easily be substituted for another, with numerous white spirits, vermouths and herbal liqueurs ready to take over for marvellously unexpected results.
Which is why Negroni Week, a charity campaign organised by Imbibe Magazine and Campari, is the perfect time to sample as many different iterations as you can. Around 2,700 participating venues around the world will be stirring up classic and original versions of the famed cocktail for a good cause. $1 to $3 (depending on the bar) from every Negroni sale will go to the bar or restaurant’s charity of choice.
24 bars in Singapore will be participating, and while their unique creations will only be on the menu for that week, the bartenders will be happy to serve special requests. Here are several to get you started:
AN ASIAN TWIST
Bringing an international closer to home with local ingredients.
1. Beyond a Negroni
by Leon Tan, Nutmeg & Clove
Charity: Beyond Social Services Singapore
– The Botanist Gin
– Sweet Vermouth infused with lemongrass, cardamom and cloves
– Lapsang Souchong Tea
– Kewra Water
Asian spices help boost the gin’s own spiciness, while a few dashes of Kewra water (an extract distilled from pandanus flowers) helps enhance Campari’s bittersweetness. Tan has also managed to work in citrus notes from the lemongrass, as well the mild smokiness of Chinese tea.
2. Ginseng Negroni
by Edwin Poh, Ah Sam’s Cold Drink Stall
Charity: Ren Ci Hospital
– Ginseng-infused Gin
– Sweet Vermouth
Wanting a drier finish for his Negroni, Poh has chosen to use the herbal notes from his ginseng-infused gin. He was inspired by the liang teh he made for his sick staff during a particularly hazy period.
by Naz Arjuna, Bitters & Love
Charity: Action for Singapore Dogs
– Gin infused with pandan and lemongrass
– 1757 Cinzano Rosso
Arjuna has pre-smoked the drink’s glassware in hay to impart a very subtle smoky finish to his creation. The flavours from his pandan and lemongrass-infused gin fuse beautifully with the bitterness of Campari.
AN ORIGINAL TAKE
Why stop at three ingredients when a host of others could make fascinating hybrids?
1. Garibaldi Frizzante
by Shafik, FOC
Charity: Children Cancer Foundation
– FOC House Blend Floral Gin
– Mancino Rosso
– Cynar Artichoke Liqueur
– Crème De Cassis
– Fresh Grapefruit Juice
Shafik understands that there’s not a lot one can do to improve on a classic, so he tried a different tack by carbonating the whole mix and incorporating more fruits. It was inspired by another Campari cocktail, the Garibaldi.
by Zac Lee, Tess Bar & Kitchen
– Bankes Gin
– Harmony blend of Chamomile
– Green tea and jasmine flowers tincture
– Hot water
Negronis are traditionally enjoyed on the rocks but Lee’s floral version is served warm. He compares it to glass of cognac diluted with a little warm water — it helps soften the drink and makes it more palatable for Negroni newcomers.
3. Sorrel Negroni
by Davide Boncimino, Bago at Lime House
– Mount Gay Black Barrel rum
– Gin infused with sorrelade, mancino rosso, hibiscus, cinnamon and ginger
– Homemade cinnamon syrup
Lime House’s Davide Boncimino is pouring its Caribbean influence into this tropical cocktail. Rum and gin play well together here, with an additional twist found in fresh sorrel (a common Caribbean fruit), ginger and cinnamon.
AN ALTERNATIVE BASE
Campari is rarely negotiable in a Negroni, but the base spirit is fair game.
1. Kingston Negroni
by Stuart Danker, Sugarhall
Charity: Community Chest
– Rum Nation Jamaican White Pot Still Rum
– Mancino Rosso
It’s natural for a rum-focused bar to use rum as a base in this Negroni. The White Pot Still Rum was chosen by Danker for its intense flavour which helps bring personality to his creation.
2. Sbagliato Rosa
by Gabriel Escoto, Manhattan
Charity: Run For Hope Singapore
– Cocchi Americano Rosa
– St Germain
– 2 dashes Orange Flower Water
– Top with Champagne
– Garnish with Lemon Peel and Flower
Manhattan bar’s Escoto does a fancy take on the Negroni’s predeceesor, the Americano, by substituting soda for champagne. Cocchi Americano is a gentian root-based aperitif, and its Rosa variety offers more aroma and bitterness.
3. Mexico ‘70
by Christian Hartman, Vasco
Charity: Food from the Heart
– Sweet Vermouth
– Chocolate bitters
Vasco doesn’t stock any whisky, gin or vodka so as to focus on its Latin American menu. This means its Negroni features tequila’s smoky cousin, mezcal, which Hartman believes works well with the dark notes of the chocolate bitters and Campari.