Negronis just got a little more perfect for the summer, especially as local mixologists whip up some creative twists.
Elegant in its simplicity and flawlessly balanced with bitter, boozy and herbal tastes, the Negroni is the quintessential aperitivo. The cocktail is said to have been invented by Count Camillo Negroni in Florence, circa 1919, as a way of beefing up his favorite cocktail, the Americano. These new stylized riffs remain true to the original. Here are our favorites around town.
The upscale Penn Quarter restaurant celebrates Count Camillo’s creation with drinks like a 45-day barrel-aged version stirring gin, Aperol, Dolin Blanc and Cardamaro. We also love the Robusto (gin, Gran Classico, Amaro dell’Erborista, Campari and a few drops of Lagavulin 16-year-old single-malt Scotch), inspired by the two years that Corporate Beverage Director Luca Giovanni spent in Scotland. “The ingredients keep Negronis in style, because of the aperitif properties that set your stomach before a meal,” he says. “It’s truly the best cocktail you can have, and one of the best cocktails to test a bartender.” $16, 601 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, 202.628.2888
At the Puglia-inspired restaurant adjacent to Union Market, Bar Manager Julien-Pierre Bourgon only stocks the most iconic Italian bottles for his Negroni variants, including Campari, which at one time was produced with carmine dye from cochineal beetles. When he also gleaned the intel that red velvet cake was originally colored with beet juice, Bourgon infused the liqueur with the root vegetable to ramp up color and lend an earthy note. He mixes it in drinks like the Count Camillo, with Barr Hill gin and Contratto Bianco vermouth. “I find it so refreshing, and I love the way it compliments herbs,” he says. $14, 1340 4th St. NE, 202.608.1330
Never mind the holy trinity of gin, Campari and sweet vermouth. Head Bartender Jimmy Ponce says all you need for a Negroni is something bitter, something sweet and something orange. To that end, drinks on the menu at the waterfront osteria include the Bitter Pleasure (Bulleit rye, Gran Classico, Barolo Chinato and a flamed orange and rosemary sprig) and the Foxy Lady (Catoctin Creek Watershed gin, Cocchi Rosa, orange- and fennel-infused Aperol, and basil blossom). “The Negroni is as classic as a Martini but better,” he says. $14, 301 Water St. SE, 202.484.0660