It's Negroni Week, everyone. And while I've been remiss in alerting you to the early-week Negroni events going on around the Bay, I was only doing it to save your livers.
There's still plenty going on through Sunday, when Negroni Week 2017 winds down, but perhaps you are already asking, "Negroni Week? What's that?"
Well, it's a week in which bars and restaurants around the world celebrate the cocktail known as the Negroni, and donate proceeds from the sale of special items to charities of their choice. This rather young tradition is already on track to blow far past the $1 million mark in total funds raised this year, so it's a good way to drink for a good cause.
I feel very sorry for you if you've never had the pleasure of a Negroni, but obviously now is as good a time as any to be indoctrinated. The cocktail traditionally made with 1:1:1 proportions of gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari has had a bit of a renaissance on cocktail menus in recent years, beloved as it is within the bartender community because of its simplicity and perfect balance of spiritous, aromatic, sweet, and bitter elements. It represents the epitome of three-ingredient classic drinks, and as of last year, cocktail writer Gary Regan even devoted an entire book to it.
As SF-based Campari rep Dave Karraker explains to Vogue, "We’ve seen a changing American palate over the last several decades. Sweet drinks (like Sex and the City’s infamous Cosmopolitan) dominated the 1990s and 2000s, but today’s tastes have evolved to be more suited to spirits like Bourbon and bittersweet Campari. This evolution has, in part, caused the explosion of the Negroni.”
The history of the drink, like much cocktail history, is a bit murky, but the main legend has it that it was named for a man named Count Cammillo Negroni, who spent the last decades of the 19th century touring the United States and learning the skills of cowboys. He returned to his native Italy, to Florence, in 1905, and was known to frequent a spot called Caffe Cassoni on the Via Tornabuoni. Because Italians weren't accustomed to mixing liquors there were aperitivi and amari, and that was about it the idea of mixing Campari, vermouth, and soda became all the rage in a cocktail known as the Americano, in the 1910s. As the story goes, Negroni started asking the bartender to use gin in his drink instead of club soda, and the Negroni cocktail was born.
And it should be understood that the Negroni, while great in its original form, is merely a template these days. White Negronis can be made by substituting in bianco vermouth and a different, clear bitter liqueur like Quinquina. Aperol can be swapped in for the Campari as well. And all over town this weekend you can likely find other house-styled versions at any number of bars. Below, a few suggestions.
SF's newest Negroni bar serves up the classic version as well as Americanos and a white variation called the Cardinale. For Negroni Week they also have a third version called the Countessa. Proceeds benefit Muttville Senior Dog Rescue.
450 Hayes at Octavia
Craftsman and Wolves
Pastry innovator William Werner of Craftsman and Wolves is honoring the Negroni with Negroni-Glazed Raspberry Madeleines, glazing the classic French tea cake with a tangy, bittersweet pink icing. They come in a four-pack for $7, and proceeds benefit SF-Marin Food Bank.
Pacific Cocktail Haven
Bar star Kevin Diedrich is offering up his variation called the Leeward Negroni (coconut-washed Campari, Pandan cordial, Sipsmith VJOP gin, and Mai Tai bitters), succeeding in introducing some tropical flavors without using juice or citrus. (Pictured above.) Proceeds from the $13 cocktail go to benefit Share Cancer Support.
580 Sutter Street at Mason
The Saratoga, from the Spruce team, is offering up house-made old-fashioned doughnuts ($4 each) dipped in a barrel-aged Negroni glaze, and finished with a generous dusting of foie gras sprinkles. Also, the bar can make you a fine classic Negroni to wash it down as well. Benefiting SF-Marin Food Bank.
1000 Larkin Street at Post
Tartine co-owner and executive pastry chef Elisabeth Prueitt has created a Deconstructed Negroni Sundae ($12) featuring orange blossom ice cream, strawberry, Campari pate de fruit and juniper meringue in support of No Kid Hungry.
595 Alabama Street at 18th
On Sunday, June 11th from 8pm-2am, Tradition is throwing the official closing party for Negroni week, "a disco and Campari-infused celebration featuring themed-out Negroni variations, Negroni-inspired bites, and of course, disco." (See video below.) Also, there will be Negroni lollipops, and Italian (not Swedish) Negroni Fish.
441 Jones Street
The city's devoted gin bar is of course celebrating Negroni Week. They're having some fun this year with "Cookie Inspired Negronis," which are paired with their respective cookie on the side, and those are: the Lemon Bar Negroni, Ginger Snap Negroni, and Coconut Macaroon Negroni. Proceeds benefit SF-Marin Food Bank.
600 Polk Street at Turk