Hey everyone, last week was Negroni Week! Did you miss it? Sorry about that. I probably should have warned you ahead of time.
I'll strive to do better.
Anyway, just so you aren't surprised next year, Negroni Week is an annual affair sponsored by Imbibe Magazine and Campari. It's also a charity drive wherein each participating bar gives some portion of their hash tagged Negroni menus to a charity of their choosing. All of that is of possibly arguable value, I suppose, but I like it because it encourages my favorite bars to fill a menu with Negroni-based concoctions. It also encourages more people to try bitter cocktails. In my book, that is A-OK!
Unlike last year, I didn't spend Negroni Week drinking Negronis on my couch. I actually ventured out and sampled the offerings of trained professionals! I even did the utterly unheard of and went out after work on a Monday to go to a bar in Denver that was kicking off the week by breaking a record for world's largest barrel aged Negroni. I even talked to a couple people. Yes, with MY FACE!
Shenanigans aside, it was a great opportunity to sample the creativity of the bartending talent pool. There were interesting gins. There were interesting amari. This one had a vermouth never seen before in these parts. That one had a brand new Campari alternative... Well, no. None of them had that.
The whole party is sponsored by Campari after all.
But the thing is, there are some brand new Campari alternatives that everyone really should check out.
First, from right here in my home town of Denver, Colorado, there is Leopold Bros. new Aperitivo. This stuff is weird! I'm pretty sure the thing that give me a kick when I'm tasting it is the sarsaparilla root that is added to the mix, but that's really only a guess on my part. I went to the distillery to hear the master distiller, Todd Leopold, talk about it, and I learned a ton. Mostly I learned I have a much better head for mixing booze than I ever would for producing it. He's a smart, smart dude, and he makes really unique products. I love the Aperitivo more in a Boulevardier than I do in a Negroni. Still, if you get the right gin and vermouth, you can mix a real winner.
Next there are a pair of bottles coming from Contratto, and Italian wine maker that I have mostly known previously for their vermouths (which I've honestly considered to be basically average). With their Bitter and Aperitif, though, they are taking Campari and Aperol each on head to head. They come in at a price point similar to their counterparts, have great flavors, and are colored and flavored naturally. Oh, and they come in liter bottles! The Aperitif is pretty sweet, but I think it has great nuance behind the sweetness. The Bitter is what I've been using for my Negronis lately. It's a little bit softer than Campari and can be beat up a bit by the other ingredients (or by too much dilution especially), but I just love it.
OK, how about a recipe? Some of you are probably here for the recipes, right?
The Radled Sharoni
Yes, that is probably the worst cocktail name ever. Please feel free to reply with alternatives that are not so abysmal.
Name notwithstanding, this is a pretty nice little drink I made up the other day with inspiration from a few sources:
- Stiegl Radler, which combines german beer and grapefruit soda to produce what may very well be the the drink of the summer for me. At least the idea of "radler" beers has me pretty excited.
- A sherry-based Negroni variant on the Negroni Week menu at my favorite Denver haunt, RiNo Yacht Club.
- The classic Negroni Sbagliato.
- 1½ oz Fino Sherry
- 1 oz Leopold Bros. Aperitivo
- 1 oz Sweet Vermouth
- ½ oz Dry Curaçao
- Build in a rocks glass.
- Add crushed ice.
- Top with San Pellegrino Pompelmo (Grapefruit) soda.
This one comes out tart and refreshing. You won't want a bucket of it, but it's got some really fun things going on.