TD Negroni special: The explainer

Everything you wanted to know about Negroni and Negroni Week—September 13 to 19 this year—but didn’t know who to ask
Negroni cocktail
The Negroni is one of the world’s most famous cocktails. Image: Shutterstock

Negroni is one of the world’s classic cocktails. Since 2013, the cocktail which is 102 years old (according to the most popular story of its origin, although there are other versions as well) has been toasted with a weeklong celebration every September organised jointly by Campari and Imbibe magazine. Not only does Negroni Week celebrate this great cocktail, it also raises money for charitable causes around the world. Negroni is also an official cocktail of the International Bartenders Association and is used in the annual World Cocktail Competition.    

What is Negroni Week all about?

Negroni cocktail
An orange slice is the garnish of choice for a Negroni. Image: Shutterstock

Imbibe launched Negroni Week in New York in 2013 to celebrate one of the world’s great cocktails as well as raise money for charity. This is how it works. For one week in September, bar and restaurants mix classic Negronis and Negroni variations after they have signed up as participants and made a donation to one of Negroni Week’s long list of official charity partners. The participating venues can then return during and after Negroni Week to make additional donations to their chosen charity. Some choose to donate a small amount for each Negroni they sell. After Negroni Week is complete, the organisers tally up how much was raised collectively by all participating bars, restaurants and partners. 

In 2013, when Negroni Week launched, there were around 120 participating venues. Now there are over 12,000 venues around the world. Till date, the Negroni Week has raised over $3 million for charity. 

This year Negroni Week, which is in its ninth year, runs from September 13 to 19. 

What is a Negroni?

Negroni cocktail
Negroni has a very simple recipe. Image: Shutterstock

For such an iconic cocktail, the Negroni has an unexpectedly simple recipe: equal parts gin, Campari and sweet vermouth. It is Campari, a bitter liqueur from Italy, that lends Negroni its unique flavour and colour. Traditionally, a Negroni is stirred, not shaken, poured over ice in an old-fashioned or rocks glass and garnished with an orange slice or peel. It is an aperitif generally served before a meal. 

The star ingredient of a Negroni is Campari, an Italian liqueur obtained from an infusion of herbs and fruit. A bitters, it has a characteristic dark-red colour and was invented by Gaspare Campari in Novara, Italy in 1860.  

A few variations of Negroni

Negroni cocktail
A Negroni just about to be garnished. Image: Shutterstock
  • Agavoni or Tegroni: Tequila in place of gin
  • Americano: 1 part Campari, 1 part sweet red vermouth, and a splash of soda
  • Cardinale: replaces sweet vermouth with dry vermouth
  • Boulevardier: instead of gin, it uses whisky
  • Old Pal: dry vermouth and Canadian rye whisky
  • Dutch Negroni: uses Jenever instead of gin
  • Negroni sbagliato: uses Prosecco instead of gin
  • Negroscan: a Norwegian drink that uses akvavit instead of gin
  • Queen’s Negroni: this British variant replaces Campari with Pimm’s

The interesting history of Negroni 

Campari is an essential ingredient of Negroni. Image: Shutterstock

There are many stories of the origin of the Negroni. The most popular account is that is was first mixed in Florence, Italy, in 1919, at Caffè Casoni. Pascal Olivier Count de Negroni asked his friend, the bartender Forsco Scarselli, to strengthen his favourite cocktail, the Americano, by replacing the soda water in the drink with gin. The bartender also garnished the drink with orange rather than the customary lemon to indicate it was a different drink. And that’s how, apparently, the Negroni was born. 

The cocktail was a roaring success and the Negroni family went on to found the Negroni Distillerie in Treviso, Italy, where they manufactured a readymade version of drink called Antico Negroni.   

Negroni trivia 

Campari and negroni
Campari lends Negroni its distinctive red colour. Image: Shutterstock
  • Until 2006, Campari’s striking red colour came from carmine, a dye extracted from crushed cochineal insects.
  • The Americano, from which the Negroni has evolved, was the first drink James Bond ordered in Casino Royale, the first book in the iconic series by Ian Fleming. And it’s not the last Americano he drank in the series either! 
  • While working on Cagliostro in Rome in 1947, the director Orson Welles described the Negroni to the Coshocton Tribune thus: “The bitters are excellent for your liver, the gin is bad for you. They balance each other.”

Many bars in India have signed up for Negroni Week too. To find one near you, check out www.negroniweek.com

Go on, raise a Negroni. It’s for a good cause after all. 

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