Remember when the Discovery Channel used to devote an entire week every year to shark-based programming, called, naturally, Shark Week?* And remember when people on the internet used to jokingly — or maybe not jokingly, or maybe they didn’t even know if they were joking or not — “live every week like it’s Shark Week?”
Well, that’s how I feel about Negronis. I try to live every week like it’s Negroni Week. Which is especially convenient this week, because it’s actually Negroni Week.
So let’s celebrate!
Negroni Week is a collaboration between the venerable drinks publication and Campari, which is in many ways the crucial ingredient in a Negroni. There are local bars and charities involved, and depending on where you live, you may be able to find a cocktail joint serving up classic Negronis and obscure Negroni riffs made for this week.
Obviously I have not tried every participating bar, so I cannot vouch for many of them specifically. But in general I find that participating in Negroni Week is a sign that a bar takes the whole drink-making thing pretty seriously. At minimum, it’s a sign that the bar has invested at least a little bit of time in thinking about Negronis.
But you can also celebrate Negroni week at home, and demonstrate that you, too, have spent at least a little bit of time thinking about Negronis. (One of my beliefs is that more people should spend time thinking about Negronis.)
And while I am aware that just a few paragraphs ago I wrote that Campari is “in many ways the crucial ingredient in a Negroni,” I did qualify that statement with “in many ways” for a reason. And that’s because the easiest way to riff on a Negroni is to substitute some other bitter liqueur for the Campari.
If you have a weird amaro on your bar cart, or there’s some mysterious bottle of bitter booze that you’ve been tempted to try, this is the drink to try it in.
You should always taste new bottles on their own — even just a quarter ounce sip will give you a clear sense of the taste. But dropping a new amaro into a Negroni format is, as far as I’m concerned, the best way to test-run that bottle’s cocktail properties. Doing so will tell you how it interacts with gin and vermouth, both of which you should know reasonably well. And it should give you a clear enough sense of the specific taste of the bottle, and which way the profile leans.
To bring this back to my own proclivities, I’ve recently been testing out a new bitter bottle — Carpano Botanic Bitter, a relatively new offering from the folks who make our beloved Carpano Antica Formula Vermouth.
It’s root-y and citrusy, a little more vegetal than Campari but not nearly as earthy as Cynar. It reminds me a little of both Amaro Lucano and Amaro CioCiaro, but it’s very much its own thing. And, of course, it makes a great Negroni-esque cocktail.
For this drink, I stick with the same 4:3:3 ratio I use in my classic Negroni, which leads to a more balanced, less syrupy drink than the usual 1:1:1. Since this was a test drink intended to help me understand the properties of a new bottle, I went with the very standard, very familiar Beefeater for the gin. (This isn’t quite science. But when you’re running tests, you don’t want to introduce too many variables.) And since this is a bottle from Carpano, I decided to go with Carpano Antica Formula Vermouth. It’s bold, rich, and heavy, but it works quite well with the Botanic Bitter.
Is this the best Negroni I’ve ever had? No, but it’s pretty good, and purely because of the novelty of a new bottle it’s a little more interesting than many of the versions I’ve had a dozen times already.
¾ ounce Carpano Botanic Bitter
¾ ounce Carpano Antica Formula Vermouth
1 ounce dry gin (Beefeater)
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass.
Add ice, then stir until chilled.
Strain into a rocks glass over a large piece of ice.
Garnish with a strip of orange peel.
*Apparently Shark Week is still happening. Who knew?
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