Friday night, I had the wonderful experience of attending the Manhattan Cocktail Classic Gala in New York City where Tony the Famous Mixologist made me one of his specialty cocktails – the much loved Negroni!

Authentically made with Campari, the Negroni ranks with the Martini and the Manhattan in the libation pantheon – especially in Italy where the cocktail is a very popular part of apertivo – the before dinner drinks accompanied by food that is the finest of all Italian traditions.

Some claim aperitivo started during the glamour years of the 1950s and 60s, when fashionistas, intellectuals and movie stars would sip cocktails and people-watch in Milan’s stylish bars. Others say that the tradition began in the 18th century, when monks concocted magical elixirs with claims of healing properties. Either way,  apertivo is an important part of Italian life as a way of socializing and winding down after a day of work and the tradition is spreading throughout the US – especially in New York City!

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In addition to it’s history with Italian apertivo, the Negroni actually has aristocratic roots having been created by an actual Count Camillo Negroni, who asked that Gin be added to strengthen his usual Americano, a time honored drink made with Campari and sweet vermouth. The bartender also added an orange garnish rather than the typical lemon garnish of the Americano to signify that it was a different drink. Since that day, the Negroni has become Italy’s signature cocktail that is emblematic of urbane sophistication.

Kristen Colapinto-Manhattan Cocktail Classic

Enjoying a Negroni!

From Italy to America, the word on the street is that 2011 will be remembered as the “Year of the Negroni”. Campari, the legendary one-of-a-kind red spirit, has announced that it is naming 2011 as “The Year of the Negroni” in homage to this timeless tipple at the Manhattan Cocktail Classic’s Gala event.

As one of the world’s most distinctive and Well-Known spirits, Campari has been embraced by Mixologist around the globe.  Campari is classic and contemporary, stylish, sexy, and embodies taste and luxury.

To celebrate the “Year of the Negroni”, here are 3 ways to enjoy the Negroni:

The Classic Negroni

courtesy Tony Abou-Ganim

1 oz Campari

1 oz Gin

1 oz sweet vermouth

* Add ingredients into a mixing glass with ice and stir. Strain into a rocks glass with new ice. Garnish with an orange rind.

East Indian Negroni

courtesy Jim Meehan, mixologist at PDT

2 oz Banks 5-Island Rum

3/4 oz Campari

3/4 oz Lustau East India Sherry

Garnish: Orange twist

* Add all the ingredients to a mixing glass, then add ice. Stir and strain into a rocks glass filled with one large cube

Marco Polo Negroni

Christy Pope and Chad Solomon, bartenders for Cuff and Buttons

1 oz Gin

1 oz Sweet Vermouth

1 oz Campari

½ oz Marco Polo Aromatic Tincture

(Marco Polo Aromatic Tincture: Pippali Pepper, Mace, Coriander, Cardamom)

Garnish: Marco Polo Essence on an Orange Slice (Marco Polo Essence: Black Pepper, Cardamom, Curry Leaf, Bitter Orange)

* Build in rocks glass.

Kristen Colapinto-Manhattan Cocktail Classic


About Campari:

Campari is an alcoholic apéritif (20.5%, 21%, 25% or 28% ABV, depending on the country in which it is sold) obtained from the infusion of herbs and fruit (including chinotto) in alcohol and water. It is a bitters characterized by its dark red color.

Campari is often used in cocktails and is commonly served with soda water, wine, or citrus juice. It is produced by the Campari Group, a multi-national company based in Italy.

The history of Campari began in 1860 with its invention by Gaspare Campari in Novara, Italy. The original recipe still in use today is kept confidential. According to Gruppo Campari, only one person in the world knows the entire formula.[citation needed] It was originally colored with carmine dye, derived from crushed cochineal insects, which gave the drink its distinctive red color.

In 1904, Campari’s first production plant was opened in Sesto San Giovanni, near Milan, Italy. The company required bars that bought Campari to display the Campari Bitters sign. Under the direction of Davide Campari, Gaspare’s son, the company began to export the beverage, first to Nice in the heart of the French Riviera, then overseas. The Campari brand is now distributed in over 190 countries.

In the Italian market, Campari mixed with soda water is sold in individual bottles as Campari Soda (10% alcohol by volume). Campari Soda is packaged in a distinctive bottle that was designed by Fortunato Depero in 1932. Campari is said to have been the inspiration for other bitter sweet drinks such as Kinnie, produced in Malta since 1952.

Campari is an essential ingredient in the classic Negroni cocktail, the Garibaldi cocktail, and in the Americano. Campari also can be used to make a sorbet.