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18 Places to Drink During Negroni Week

Celebrate the cocktail and do good while you drink


The Nolen's Andrew Larson makes his smokey version of a Negroni, Lost at Sea, at a recent cocktail competition. | Photo by Kelly Davis

It’s rare to find Negroni fans among non-bartenders. Equal parts gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth, Negronis can be a challenging cocktail for folks who don’t like Campari’s bitterness. It’s an acquired taste—but once acquired, you’re hooked.

The Negroni’s simple composition practically begs bartenders to riff on it. And riff they do, swapping out gin for rum or sherry or tequila. Though Campari’s a key ingredient, you’ll see versions of the cocktail that replace it with other interesting aperitifs. Same goes with the sweet vermouth—Carpano Antica is a favorite, but Carpano Bianco, with its floral notes, is really nice, too.

If you want to take a crash-course in Negronis, now’s the time. Negroni Week kicked off Monday and goes through June 12. Started by Imbibe Magazine four years ago, it pairs up cocktails and causes. Hundreds of bars throughout the U.S.—and dozens locally—will be serving classic Negronis and creative takes on Negronis with proceeds going to a charity of the bar’s choice.

What follows is a by-no-means exhaustive list of some Negroni Week offerings that demonstrate just how far the drink can go—and highlights the worthy charities your drink purchase will benefit.

  • If you want to go with a classic, head to Prohibition and adjoining bar, Last Call. They’re also doing a “local” version of a classic, made with Old Harbor gin and R&D cherry apple bitters. Proceeds benefit David’s Harp, a nonprofit that teaches audio production and sound engineering to at-risk youth.

  • At the The Nolen, lead bartender Andrew Larson’s got two options, both incorporating smokey flavors to balance out Campari’s bitterness. Lost at Sea includes Jamaican and black-strap rum, Campari, Carpano Antica vermouth, and Regan’s Orange Bitters No.6. It’s served in a rocks glass that’s first filled with applewood-cinnamon smoke. For a slightly more traditional take, there’s the Salt & Smoke, made with Bols Genever—a tasty Negroni base—Campari, Cocchi Torino vermouth, and a pinch of salt. The smoke comes from a Scotch-rinsed glass. Proceeds benefit Stand Up for Kids.

  • One of my favorite cocktails is a Boulevardier—a Negroni made with rye whiskey. Order one at Seven Grand during Negroni Week and proceeds benefit Wildcoast.

  • A Negroni made with tequila is—a tequila Negroni. Coin-Op’s serving three variations, one made with El Silencio Mezcal (which some folks call a Oaxacan Negroni). Proceeds benefit the Wounded Warrior Project.

  • Kettner Exchange’s also hooked up with the Wounded Warrior Project. Try the Ed’s Negroni, made with Demerara rum, Old Harbor Navy Strength Jamaican rum, Campari, and sweet vermouth.

  • Looking at the ingredients for Bracero’s trio of Negroni-inspired cocktails is almost as fun as drinking them. The Negroni Della Casa is made with Rutte dry gin, Gran Classico (a great alternative to Campari), Cinzano 1757 sweet vermouth, aged house sherry, smoked salt and lemon. More traditional is the Le Marc (Beefeater gin, “mulled” Campari and Carpano Antica, and St. George coffee liqueur for some nice balance). The Sbagliata Mexicana (a Sbagliato is a Negroni made with sparkling wine instead of gin) includes Tequila Ocho, Cocchi Americano, Suze (a French aperitif), cinnamon, Scrappy’s cardamom bitters, bubbles, and a grapefruit twist. Proceeds benefit the arts-scholarship program Inspire Artistic Minds.

  • The Grant Grill’s SoCal Spritz also includes bubbles: It’s made with Campari, Bols Genever, dry vermouth, fresh grapefruit juice, and sparkling rose. Proceeds benefit the Boys and Girls Club of America.

  • URBN North Park’s Just Ask the Axis (proceeds benefit the Surfrider Foundation) brings in whiskey and sherry:

    1 oz. Campari
    1 oz. Kikori Japanese Whiskey
    1/2 oz. Amontillado
    1/2 oz. Madarine Napoleon
    Cracked salt

    Stirred, served over ice and garnished with a basil leaf

  • Kindred’s David Kinsey came up with an easy-drinking tropical take on a Negroni that he’s dubbed No Safe Harbor. It’s made with mango-infused Bols Genever, pineapple-infused Carpano Antica vermouth, and strawberry-infused Campari. Kinsey rounds it out with Giffard’s Banana liqueur and passion fruit bitters. Proceeds benefit the California Wolf Center (or, just throw a few buck into the mouth of the giant wolf sculpture on the wall—seriously).

  • Last week, I raved about Herb & Wood’s Tequila & Grapefruit cocktail. Bartender Jen Welsh found a way to marry it with a Negroni. Her Dutch Girlfriend is a elegant blend of Bols Genever, Giffard’s Creme de Pamplemousse Rose (grapefruit liqueur), and Carpano Bianco vermouth, with proceeds going to Mutt Scouts, a nonprofit dog rescue.

  • Over at Ironside, Rachel Clark’s Madame’s Courage also includes Creme de Pamplemousse Rose, Bols Genever, Campari, and Carpano Bianco, topped off with prosecco. This is also a really lovely cocktail. Proceeds benefit Food 2 Soil, a local program focusing on ending food waste.

  • Want to try a barrel-aged Negroni? Sycamore Den’s got one. The Enhanced Cardinal is made with Aviation Gin, Carpano Bianco, Campari, and a smidgen of salt (a truly magical ingredient), and is aged in an Aviation Gin barrel. Proceeds benefit human-rights organization, Women PeaceMakers.

  • Cucina Urbana’s featuring the Negreeni, made with green tea-infused gin, the French aperitif Byrhh standing in for Campari, and Lillet Blanc to round it all out. Proceeds benefit Baja Dog Rescue.

  • Bankers Hill’s cocktail, The Final Countdown, by bar manager Zack Gray, includes the usual ingredients, plus Spirit Works sloe gin, a couple drops of citric acid to bring out Campari’s fruitiness and a couple drops of absinthe to make things interesting. Proceeds benefit the San Diego ASPCA.

  • Folks who want to ease their way into a Negroni should try Duck Dive’s Negroni L’Orange—which includes Campari’s slightly mellower cousin, Aperol. Bartender Patrick Courtney combined Bols Genever, Carpano Bianco, Campari, and Aperol and infuses it with pineapple. Duck Dive paired up with The Wingman Foundation, a nonprofit that supports families of fallen military pilots. 

  • Level2 at George's at the Cove is serving a Negroni punch made with Nolet's dry gin, Campari, Carpano Antica, lemon, oleo saccharum, and chamomile. "It's got a fantastic acidity, along with a really pleasurable mouthfeel," says head bartender Stephen Kurpinsky. "There's still the Negroni bite, but it's quite rounded as well." Proceeds benefit the La Jolla High Foundation.

  • Panama 66 in Balboa Park is serving a trio of classics: a Boulevardier, a Dutch Negroni (genever, Campari, and sweet vermouth), and a Negroni Sbagliato. Proceeds benefit the San Diego Museum of Art. 

  • Last but not least is Adam Lockridge’s Chiquita Negroni over at PrepKitchen in Little Italy. I was a judge in a recent Negroni competition, and this was one of my favorites (Lockridge took home second place). It’s made with banana-infused Bols Genever, Carpano Antica, and Campari that’s been infused with charred strawberries and pink peppercorn. Definitely not to be missed. Proceeds benefit San Diego Youth Services.

Got suggestions for a future column? Write to 2kellydavis@gmail.com.

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