Negroni: The Most Polarizing of Drinks

June 7th, 2017

close up of a negroni cocktail

It seems like every other week there’s a national celebration of a certain thing: doughnuts, craft beer, puppies, whatever. It catches social traction and next thing you know, your Instagram feed is covered in hamburgers bookended by two sexy glazed doughnuts, complete with a craft beer pairings, all delivered by a rottweiler puppy with a tray fashioned to its back. It’s totally f***ing adorable.

But this week is different. This week is Negroni Week. Pushed by Imbibe and Campari, it’s a week dedicated to the classic gin drink and those who love it, all wrapped in fundraising efforts for local and national charities. Listen, we can totally get behind great gin drinks and a cause, but it’s a fact that not everyone can get behind the Negroni as a drink order and we have some theories why.

How To: Negroni

1 oz | Gin (Hendrick’s)
1 oz | Sweet Vermouth (Antica Formula)
1 oz | Campari

Combine all ingredients into mixing glass and stir with ice.
Strain into coupe or rocks glass (with ice). Garnish with orange peel.

Let’s start with a (very) brief history lesson to get everyone on the same page. The origins of the Negroni, as the story goes, date back to around 1920 when Count Camillo Negroni ordered an Americano — sweet vermouth, Campari, and club soda — and swapped the soda for gin while at Bar Casoni in Florence, Italy. He like it so much it became a standing order and so the Negroni was born. Nearly 100 years later it’s popularity is still on the rise. The Count would be proud.

But again, not everyone can get behind this red beauty. Maybe even some of Count Negroni’s friends thought he was a weirdo and curled their upper lip at the thought of such a mix of liquors. Odds are you, in 2017, know at least one person who loves Negronis and at least a few who hate it. It begs the question: why is this Italian cocktail so polarizing?

Theory No. 1

The drink is just too damn advanced for normal pallets.

It may be the most simple cocktail to make behind the bar, but the depth and complexity of the bitterness, sweet, and aromatic ingredients blending together in a glass like a 19th Century classical piano composition could be too much for people to take in all at once. Now, we’re not calling these folks simple or unrefined, but there’s a difference between Kid Rock’s “Bawitdaba” and Chopin’s “Op. 10, No. 12.” Just sayin’.

Theory No. 2

The drink is not good and people are just pretending to like it.

Nope. Wrong. Moving on.

Theory No. 3

The Campari is too bitter.

Ok. We can maybe buy this theory seeing how Campari is a tad bitter (read: it’s totally bitter). But, that doesn’t mean people should just give up on the Negroni as a whole! There are so many variations to this drink it’ll make your head spin. Yes, it’s not the “traditional” way, but it’s been 100 years, so who gives a s***? If you don’t like Campari, cool, maybe try Aperol or Cappelletti — both are Italian and red, but less bitter than their Campari counterpart.

You can also request the Negroni on the rocks and the water from the melted ice will help neutralize the pronounced flavors of the cocktail.

how to make a negroni
Theory No. 4

Gin is for old English ladies.

Well, you’re wrong. Gin is booming right now and has been for some time. In fact, over the last decade or so, gin exports from the UK have increased more than 550% to the U.S.. Nope, we’re not counting the gin produced stateside either. Gin is securing its place behind the bar and it’s not going anywhere. But, if you’re set in your ways, there are, yet again, some alternatives to get you on the Negroni train.

Replace the gin with bourbon and you have a Boulevardier — a delicious, delicious cocktail any Kentucky gentleman would be happy to drink. Feel free to take it south of the border, too, and replace the gin with a smoky mezcal.

Theory No. 5

You haven’t had a good one.

Negronis aren’t hard to make, but there are so many subtle variations bartenders toss in: the types of gin or vermouth they use; how long they stir the cocktail before serving; if they’re using a 1:1:1 ratio; and so on and so forth. Maybe it’s just you haven’t had the right variation yet, in which case keep looking for that right bartender to help sherpa you along your Negroni path. We have faith that you’ll eventually find your way.

Theory No. 6

Maybe it’s not your thing.

Ok, we acquiesce here. Everyone doesn’t have to like everything and that’s totally cool. You’ve given Negronis a go — on a number of occasions — and you can’t bring yourself to order another one. Hey, you do you. Just know there is a fully-stocked bar, staffed with knowledgeable drink-enthusiasts at Fado. In short, it’s a place where you get what you want.

Happy Negroni Week!