We all heard it was the year of the aperitif, and drinks like the Negroni have gathered steam incredibly swiftly in the past few years. Many bars could testify that they fly off the shelves, and with that, Campari has brought London a pop up bar with the largest selection of Negronis in the world!
A celebration of Campari and the iconic cocktail, the #RediscoverRed Negroni Bar has taken over the Shoreditch Red Gallery from the 11th to 21st May 2016! 30 Negroni twists prepared by bars from across the globe have all come down to London for this week. And that’s not all, a selection of East London legends from Happiness Forgets to Casita will be serving their own twists at their own venues for Negroni Week.
Boozy history lesson (at least one that the Hoodooist picked up along the way, and with alcohol – who the hell actually fact checks these things): the Bitter Florio that would inspire Campari was invented not far from the Targa Florio race track by the Sicilian Florio family – the original recipe being basically spices and herbs, cochineal beetles for colour, a touch of water, and well. Race car fuel.
Because apparently drinking fuel in the middle of the race was kinda dangerous and the drivers were up for something that tasted less like certain death.
You can see why I love Sicily, yes?
The smoky venue is absolutely smothered with gorgeous artwork celebrating Campari’s rich heritage, ads and posters from across the 20th Century are filled with tales that the staff can fill you in on. Be smart and grab a seat at the bar because this place is gonna get rammed.
Having prepared ourselves for the massive list, we went for a couple of similar twists that both used one of the Hoodooist’s favourite ingredients: Cynar artichoke bitter.
It’s 6PM, our chats with Ben from Casita is taking us through the menu, and we already know what we want:
The Harbord Room, Toronto brought in The Bittersweet Melodies – Campari, Cinzano Bianco vermouth, Cynar, Bulldog gin and orange bitters for a classic dry Negroni with the rounded smoothness of the Cynar, along with its slightly smoky, savoury flavour – a fun and classic twist to the classic cocktail, and a good one to lead with. A fab choice, highly recommended.
Up against it, Knokke’s The Pharmacy brings in The Belgian – which doesn’t sound very, well, Belgian. Campari, Appleton Estate rum, Cinzano Rosso vermouth and beloved Cynar. Bit on the sweet side, flavour notes are slightly conflicted, spices and treacle. It is still a decent drink, but when set up against The Bittersweet Melodies in the same round, pales.
Harry and Jay of Loves Company are here! Which basically means we’re already throwing back whiskey. Already seeing tomorrow’s forecast
The Sao Paulo versus the Mezcal and Hum!
The Sao Paulo is actually the booziest one of the night, but you wouldn’t tell it!
I myself still need to be sold on coffee cocktails, but if they’re your style, then the smooth and long Sao Paulo will provide you with a sweet mix of Campari, Aperol, Vermouth, Gin and coffee. The sweet flavours really stand out, quite surprisingly – fruit from the Aperol and vermouth simmer as the coffee dominates the orange citrus cocktail.
And then there’s the Mezcal and Hum Negroni. Muscling in with powerful flavours inspired by the home of their bar, the Manhattan in Singapore, Campari meets Mancino Rosso vermouth, Alipus Baltazar mezcal, and the Hum liqueur made from hibiscus, ginger, kaffir lime and cardamom. A complex, dry and seductive cocktail, powerfully smoky, with spicy sweet notes from the mezcal pepperiness, hibiscus and vermouth – matched by the citrus herbal notes of the kaffir, ending on a finish of ginger and cardamom.
Love. Love. Love. This. Cocktail.
Chats with the ambassador of Aperol after spraying him with soda at the Aperol Terrazza in Smithfield is always a pleasure – should be because you got to respect anyone who makes Aperol Spritzes blindfolded (yes, really).
The Mezcalito by Mauro’s Negroni Club Munich brings some ingredients I love together: Campari, Cinzano 1757 vermouth, mezcal and Cynar, and yet…. Somehow it doesn’t quite stand up to the Mezcal and Hum.
Maybe it is clashing flavours. Maybe the black salt and cinnamon rim is just a bit too much (which it definitely is). I really wanted to enjoy this, but sadly, sometimes mixing things you love to together doesn’t work out. Like turducken?
The Morocco came all the way from the Mai Thai bar in Marrakech! Campari, Bulldog gin, Cinzano Rosso vermouth, peach liqueur with a garnish of date and rose petals.
All I could taste was peach.
Alright, we have wandered from the wonderful Negroni Bar to PortSide Parlour on Rivington for their Negroni Week specials – it’s the Vin Tonique against the (insider’s tip, ssh): Vintage Negroni!
Alright, the Vin Tonique, we have Campari, Plantation 3* rum, Byrrh, absinthe, and Angostura bitters. Hm. I will be honest here, it’s sweet and powerfully herbal and though my friend enjoyed this, I couldn’t help but think of mouthwash. Perhaps either the Byrrh or absinthe tipped it over here, and wonder what it would be like without one of them.
The Vintage Negroni is…is honeyed hedonism. Bottles of Campari, Martini Rosso vermouth, and Plymouth gin from the 1980s are mixed to prepare a classic Negroni – with all the flavours you love with an added aged roundedness and sweetness. Powerful honey finishes made this a drink I absolutely adore. An absolute must try.
And where else does a night end?!
Casita has us again, with their obscenely well-priced Red Rosita: Campari, El Jimador Reposado tequila, Antica Formula vermouth, and a Grenache/Syrah blend for a smooth, long cocktail with bite. Complexity from the wine, the winter fruit warmth of the Antica, the peppery naughtiness of the El Jimador, and of course – the bitter Campari – all make for a wonderful combo.
A great way to end the evening.
Negroni Week is an amazing opportunity to witness how London and the world interpret the classic legendary cocktail that is the Negroni, and the Campari’s Negroni Bar is the way to do it! A casual, fun atmosphere and banging drinks makes this a pop up this spring that you do not want to miss.
So go ahead, and #RediscoverRed.
The Negroni Bar @ The Red Gallery
11th – 21st May
1-3 Rivington St, Shoreditch
London EC2A 3DT