Negronino with Mezcal (Negroni Week 2020)

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I have a confession to make. Two, actually. The first is that I don’t drink Negronis that much. Right time, right place, maybe; but it’s not something I’d reach for most of the time. Second is that I’ve never heard of Negroni Week before. However, as much as I don’t like jumping on trends just ’cause everyone else is doing it, I think Negroni Week 2020 is in a special position this year. I’m celebrating it with a Negronino, a riff with Amaro Nonino, and mezcal substituting for gin.

Why is Negroni Week special this year?

Negroni Week is an international festival celebrating the famed Italian drink made from gin, vermouth, and bitter aperitivo (usually Campari). Traditionally, it’s a time for casual mixologists and bar professionals alike to come together and explore the rich history of this drink, its ingredients, and many spinoffs. It’s usually held in summer, and in fact I did see in-person events in my area scheduled for it back in June. However, covid19 threw a wrench in that plan. Back to the drawing board.

This year, Negroni Week is a primarily digital gathering of people who want to learn about mixology while fundraising for hospitality workers.

This got me thinking.

I went to a bar last weekend for the first time since the pandemic hit in Canada. As of writing, that’s a bit over half a year, the longest dry spell of my adult life. Of course like most people I sympathized with the uncertainty of bar and restaurant workers.

I lost my job in March and have been relying on my family for support. Not everyone has that support though. When an entire industry relies on people gathering in crowded places to drink and dine, there is definitely a lot of anxiety for its workers when we have to remain closed or on limited service for a long period of time.

Showing the Negronino in natural daylight, without bottles.
My Negronino in all its glory. I may have already taken a sip.

Hospitality and Covid19

I’ve spent the last few years training my eyes and my palette to recognize the beauty of a good cocktail. Everything from the glass and the colour of its contents, to the aroma and texture of the liquid as it enters into my mouth. It’s a labour of love, and requires a lot of knowledge and a fine hand to pull off. That made me realize how much work goes into the preparation and serving of something one might dub a “craft cocktail”. That, plus the fact that when I started my home bar I realized how much it costs to stock and maintain.

A lot of bars and restaurants operate month-to-month, without large surpluses to weather such a storm. As early as April, an industry group estimated that 800,000 food service jobs were lost one month into lockdown, with many more looming. Hotels and tourism, and all the small businesses relying on travelers, have also been heavily hit. Bartenders and restaurant workers are crucial to these industries’ success. Without them, the whole operation grinds to a halt.

Where you can donate

There are ways to help if you’re able to donate even a tiny bit of time or money. If you’d like participate in a Zoom-based mixology class on the Negroni, follow this link. I know I’m late to the party with this article, but there are still a couple classes left as of time of writing. It is a pay-what-you-can masterclass, with proceeds going to the Bartenders Benevolent Fund. You can find more information on different events and programs on Campari’s instagram

If you’re in Canada like me, I implore you to visit the Bartenders Benevolent Fund website. They are registered as a charitable organization in Canada, so you can be sure the money is not taxed and goes straight to helping program recipients meet their financial needs.

If you’re outside of Canada, there is a long list of other organizations in the US, Australia, and internationally that will benefit hospitality workers. Sponsors Campari and Imbibe Magaizine also partner with many other charities and relief organizations in local communities. Coronavirus isn’t going away just yet, so don’t worry if you can’t donate before Negroni Week is over – the fundraising will continue.

Also, I know of course this is just a marketing ploy for you to buy Campari, but they are donating proceeds of every bottle sold to the Bartenders Benevolent fund in Canada. Furthermore, tag @CampariCanada on Instagram and they will donate $1 for the fund!

So, that being said, I think it’s time we made a Negroni!

Subbing gin (right) for mezcal (left) in the Negroni riff.
Subbing gin (right) for mezcal (left) in the Negroni riff.

Tasting the Negronino

If you’ve never had a Negroni before, you may know it as that bitter red drink on the rocks. I’m doing it a little differently, balancing the bitterness with similar but distinct herbal aperitif flavours. Tracing this riff back to its source of inspiration requires a couple jumps.

A Negroni is bracingly bitter, based on a foundation of gin, Campari, vermouth. Easy recipe to remember: it’s a 1:1:1 ratio. A Negronino dials down the Campari to unlock more botanicals with faint hints of licorice and apricot seeds, courtesy of Amaro Nonino. Subbing out the Campari for Aperol further changes the flavour, exchanging a little more herbal bitterness for citrusy notes.

Honestly, with a gin that you love, it’s a perfect, balanced drink already. I decided to take one last step and make a riff with Mezcal. The result is a drink that starts refreshingly but not cloyingly sweet, with fresh herbs and citrus. It trades the dry, juniper and pine notes of a gin for agave, and a more woody, earthen, and smokey character on the finish.

Finally, it retains a certain zest that you’d expect even with a classic gin Negroni. It’s moderately bitter, not overwhelming for the newcomer, but still present and noticeable for the seasoned Negroni lover. There is just a lot of flavour to explore here, so I really love the Mezcal variant, and hope that you do too.

Negronino with Mezcal

A bold Negroni riff that's sweet and bitter, with fresh herbs, agave, and citrus. Woody, earthen, smokey on the finish with lingering zest.
Prep Time 10 mins
Mixing time 2 mins
Course Appetizer, Digestif, Drinks
Cuisine Italian
Servings 1

Equipment

  • Mixing glass (optional but highly recommended)
  • Ice cubes
  • Bar Spoon
  • Jiggers/measuring cups
  • Strainer
  • Serving Glass

Ingredients
  

  • 1 oz (30 ml) mezcal
  • 1 oz (30 ml) sweet vermouth
  • 3/4 oz (22 ml) Amaro Nonino
  • 3/8 oz (11 ml) Aperol
  • grapefruit peel to garnish sub an orange peel or wedge if you don't have grapefruit

Instructions
 

  • Pre-chill a stirring glass in the freezer for about 10 minutes. Add ice to mix when you take it out.
  • Add all the liquid ingredients into the mixing glass and stir. The longer you stir the colder and more dilluted your drink will get.
  • Place a strainer on your mixing glass and pour into the serving glass. Add ice.
  • Express your glass with a grapefruit peel, and add it as garnish. Enjoy!

Notes

The grapefruit peel is a small detail that helps bolster the bitter zestiness of this drink. Don’t sweat it too much though if you don’t have one handy; orange, common in a classic Negroni, will do just fine.
 
Have you made a Negroni at home yet? Let me know how you enjoyed it with a comment below. Tag me on Instagram @the.phil.osopher with your photos, and don’t forget to tag @CampariCanada as well so they donate $1 to the Bartenders Benevolent Fund. I’d also love to hear thoughts on what other recipes and stories you’d like to see.
Keyword Amaro, Amaro Nonino, aperitivo, Aperol, bitter, Campari, cocktail, cocktails, drinks, herbal, Mezcal, Negroni, Negronino, Sombra, sweet

Thanks for stopping by! If you like this kind of article, why not check out some of my other cocktail recipes as well?

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