Florence has the distinction of being the birthplace of the classic Negroni. The story goes that in 1919, the raffish Count Negroni was ensconced at his favourite bar, Caffè Casoni, when he decided his Americano – sweet vermouth and Campari topped with soda water – needed an extra kick.
He asked his friend behind the bar to swap the soda for gin. An orange garnish completed the cocktail, which was duly named in the Count’s honour. Since then, the original recipe hasn’t changed, even as it has inspired countless variations.
“The classic Negroni is like the three primary colours [red, green and blue] for an artist,” says Ali Toghani, beverage director of Sydney’s sprawling Rockpool Dining Group. “If you’ve got those three colours, you can paint anything. It’s the same with the classic Negroni – it has three beautiful ingredients that work with each other in harmony and bring such a variety of flavours to one drink. It’s a recipe no one can mess with.”
Which means putting a twist on the drink can be fraught. “Sometimes, we get bartenders who go too far and it takes away from its character,” Toghani says. It means the creativity of Rockpool Dining Group’s bartenders will be put to the test this June during International Negroni Week, running June 24 to 30.
Launched in 2013, Negroni Week raises money for charities around the world through the sale of Negronis. One dollar from every Negroni sold will go to food rescue charity OzHarvest.
“We’ve got a great partnership with OzHarvest already,” says Toghani. “Being able to donate to their cause, which directly relates to the hospitality industry and its waste, is such a worthy project for us.”
We asked Toghani to take us through three twists to try at Rockpool Dining Group venues during Negroni Week.
The Negroni Sour ($15) is a popular variation that builds on the classic Negroni via the addition of fresh lemon juice. “A classic Negroni has clean, palatable flavours,” says Toghani. “When you add zesty citrus, you introduce a new textural element that enhances it and adds to its character.”
The Negroni Sour is one of six Negronis available at classic Italian trattoria, Rosetta during Negroni week.
There will also be a Negroni Dinner, a one-off event on Wednesday, 19 June from 6pm that will match Negronis with four courses. Tickets cost $120 and menu highlights include burrata with sweet and sour radicchio, rigatoni alla carbonara, market fish salmoriglio and, for dessert, Negroni tiramisu.
You might call The Misogroni ($22) a fusion drink. One of five Negronis Saké Restaurant & Bar will offer during Negroni Week, the drink is a balanced mix of Campari, Choya Kokuto Umeshu, and Kirinzan Blue sake.
The Misogroni “has a lot of caramel and sweet flavours, and a hint of dark Caribbean rum,” says Toghani. “[The sake] enhances the texture and brings a silky aftertaste to the drink.”
The White Negroni ($7)does the unthinkable: it banishes the drink’s signature red hue while remaining true to its flavour profile.
One common element shared by the White Negroni and its classic predecessor is gin. “We’re replacing the bitterness with Suze, a French aperitif,” says Toghani. Like Campari, Suze is made from the gentian root, which gives it a similar sweet bitterness. Cocchi Americano, an aromatised, quinine-laced wine, stands in for the vermouth.
The White Negroni is one of seven available, for $7 each, at all Fratelli Fresh restaurants during Negroni Week. A different Negroni is available each day.
Other highlights of Rockpool Negroni Week include:
Bar Patrón – Negrita: Coffee-infused Campari, Cocchi Americano, Patrón Anejo tequila ($22)
The Cut Bar & Grill – Smoked Negroni: Gin, sweet vermouth, Campari, smoke ($22)
Rockpool Bar & Grill – The Rockpool Negroni: Four Pillars Dry Island gin, charcoal-grilled pine and myrtle-infused Oscar 697 Rosso, Campari, Murray Island River salt, iron-bark smoke ($26)
Spice Temple – Spiced Negroni: Tanqueray, Del Maguey mezcal, Campari, Dolin Rouge vermouth, orange juice, bitters ($24)
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Rockpool Dining Group.