It's the most ... wonderful ... time ... of the year! No, not Christmastime. Negroni Week, June 6-12, is in full swing, and for ambitious bartenders and smart drinkers, it's an annual chance to shine. The event, co-sponsored by Campari and Imbibe magazine, was launched in 2013 as a way to raise funds for various charities while raising awareness of one of the best cocktails known to humanity. Last year, more than 3,500 establishments all over the world stirred up over $320,000 for charitable causes, and this year, more than 6,000 venues have already signed on. We've listed area participants (below), but you can browse venues around the country at negroniweek.com.
The Negroni has been around since the beginning of the 20th century, but its popularity has exploded in the past few years. Bartenders love it because of its simplicity – combining equal parts of three ingredients (Campari, gin, sweet vermouth), it's so easy anyone can make it – and the myriad elegant variations to be spun from that simplicity. Some are so long-established as to be classics in their own right now, like the Boulevardier (Campari, sweet vermouth, bourbon), the Old Pal (Campari, dry vermouth, rye), the Americano (Campari, sweet vermouth, club soda) and the Negroni Sbagliato (Campari, sweet vermouth, sparkling wine). "Negroni Week is great," says Jennifer Harton of Lil Indies. "Introducing people to a classic, getting to switch it up a little and get creative, plus donating to charity at the same time."
For some bars, it's a chance to create strange and fantastical drinks or even foods inspired by the Negroni. Along with the actual cocktail, Kiwi's Pub in Altamonte Springs is selling Negroni cupcakes: chocolate cake with sweet vermouth and gin in the cake mix, iced with Campari buttercream icing and sprinkled with orange zest. The Guesthouse is serving Negroni paletas, ice pops made with Campari, St. Augustine gin, Cocchi Torino, rhubarb, peach, cucumber, lemon and Red Zinger tea. And Vespr is splashing out a Negroni that'll get you wired: their Café Negroni incorporates cold-brew concentrate rather than gin.
Other creative Negronis filling glasses this week: Citrus Restaurant's aged Negroni (Bombay gin, Lillet, Campari, house-made grapefruit bitters and sea salt aged 34 days in an oak barrel) and the Ravenous Pig's carbonated Negroni Sbagliato with Campari, Contratto red vermouth and orange roussone on tap. Some bars plan a different Negroni every night. The Matador promises to pull out the blender one night (no better summer drink than a Negroni slushie!), and Lil Indies has posted a whole Negroni menu.
"The Negroni Week menu (like all of our menus, other than classics) is a team effort. ... We talk about ideas together, and help each other fine-tune drinks," Harton says. One that's caught our eye in particular is Maybe Things Will Be Better in Chicago: barrel-aged Damrak Gin, plum and fennel Campari, and Alvear amontillado sherry. Harton named it for friends who are moving to Chicago next month: former Orlando Weekly music editor Ashley Belanger and comedian Larry Fulford. "Two people this town will miss greatly," Harton says. "The actual drink concept came from a beer I had at Ten10's Tweak'd Fest, a plum/fennel saison. Larry and Ashley both like Tom Waits, and being that it's a very bittersweet cocktail, I just thought it would be fitting."
Bittersweet indeed. Check your preferred bars' social media feeds for nightly specials through Sunday, June 12.
LOCAL BARS CELEBRATING NEGRONI WEEK
Blu on the Avenue 326 S. Park Ave., Winter Park Charity: Winter Park Day Nursery
The Breezeway Restaurant and Grill 112 E. First St., Sanford Charity: Pet Rescue by Judy
Cask and Larder 565 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park Charity: Pancreatic Cancer Action Network
Citrus Restaurant 821 N. Orange Ave. Charity: Florida Little Dog Rescue
The Courtesy 114 N. Orange Ave. Charity: The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis
Devine Wine & Grill 15 Alafaya Woods Blvd., Oviedo Charity: Devaney's Cares Foundation
F&D Kitchen and Bar 1541 International Parkway, Lake Mary Charity: Farm Share
The Guesthouse 1321 N. Mills Ave. Charity: Pet Rescue by Judy
Hanson's Shoe Repair 27 E. Pine St. Charity: ASPCA
Herman's Loan Office 22 W. Pine St. Charity: ASPCA
Kiwi's Pub & Grill 801 State Road 436, Altamonte Springs Charity: The Russell Home for Atypical Children
Lil' Indies 1036 N. Mills Ave. Charity: Fern Creek Elementary Food Bank
The Matador 724 Virginia Drive Charity: Battle for Brandy
The Osprey Tavern 4899 New Broad St. Charity: Harbor House of Central Florida
The Public House 12046 Collegiate Way Charity: The Institute of International Education
Ravello Four Seasons Resort Orlando, 10100 Dream Tree Blvd. Charity: Give Kids the World
The Ravenous Pig 1234 N. Orange Ave., Winter Park Charity: American Cancer Society
Rusteak 1568 Maguire Road, Ocoee; also 2625 Edgewater Drive Charity: A Better Life Pet Rescue
Seasons 52 463 E. Altamonte Drive, Altamonte Springs; also 7700 W. Sand Lake Road Charity: Boys & Girls Clubs of America
Siro Urban Italian Kitchen Orlando World Center Marriott, 8701 World Center Drive Charity: Melissa Knott Fund
Vespr Coffeebar 626 N. Alafaya Trail Charity: Feeding Children Everywhere
Will's Pub 1042 N. Mills Ave. Charity: Fern Creek Elementary Food Bank
The Woods Orlando 49 N. Orange Ave. Charity: Helen David Relief Fund