Welcome back behind the stick. This month we’re talking all things negroni. Are you familiar with the negroni cocktail, friends? With only three ingredients, it’s easy to make and hard to mess up. The negroni is comprised of gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth. The most classic ratio is equal parts of all three ingredients, but bartenders will vary the proportions based on individual taste. I prefer a less sweet combination and tend to add a touch more gin and Campari and a bit less sweet vermouth. In 1947, Orson Welles described the negroni as such: “The bitters are excellent for your liver, the gin is bad for you. They balance each other.”
“The bitters are excellent for your liver, the gin is bad for you. They balance each other.”
During Negroni Week (June 5-11), bartenders around the city experiment with all kinds of negroni variations. Some people barrel age them, others make a blonde negroni by subbing in Cocchi Americano for Campari and white vermouth for sweet. It is a little lighter but still full-bodied and tasty. Most of the bars around town that participate will have a special Negroni Week menu.
Typically the first full week in June, Negroni Week began in 2013 as a way for bars to raise money for local causes. Since then, nearly $900,000 has been donated to charities around the world. A portion of the proceeds from each negroni sold goes to the bars’ charities of choice. Often, the bar or restaurant will match whatever is raised through sales.
Venues participating in Jacksonville include Grape and Grain, Orsay, The Forking Amazing group (Ovinte, Bistro Aix, Il Desco), Volstead, Sidecar, Hoptinger, and more. Each of these places will have a special menu, and there are events nightly (see listing). Local distillery Marlin and Barrel is sponsoring the week, and many venues will be using their tasty 2nd Street Gin.
“I was immediately struck by how it’s a challenging cocktail, complex and bitter, yet balanced.”
For fans of the negroni, the week is a holiday of sorts, a sort of welcome to summertime. Some of the people in the service industry will spend their days off checking out what other bartenders have put together for the week. However, it’s not just those working in the industry that get excited about Negroni Week. Local negroni lover, Ryan Hickey, says, “I was immediately struck by how it’s a challenging cocktail, complex and bitter, yet balanced. Negroni week always coincides with my birthday, so it feels like a little holiday made for me. It’s my Holy Week.” I’d say that’s a pretty good birthday present.
Wherever you choose to celebrate negroni week, each cocktail you buy contributes to the community. Josh Strickland, bar and beverage manager at Restaurant Orsay, told me that negroni week, “Gives the opportunity to raise an impactful profit.” This year, Restaurant Orsay is donating to Slow Food International. According to Strickland, it encourages people to source things locally. Grape and Grain will be donating to the Clay County Animal Hospital if furry friends are more your thing. Check with each establishment to find out where your donation (via a delicious cocktail) is going.
If you plan on joining the festivities, check out the calendar of events to see where the fun will be each night. Cheers to getting casually tipsy for a cause!