Negroni Cocktails: Past, Present & Future

Negroni Week Cocktails: Past, Present and Future // stirandstrain.com

This post is brought to you by Campari. Recipes and ideas are my own.

Your Instagram feed might be turning from #millennialpink to a cheery garnet red next week as we embark on the FIFTH year of Negroni Week!

If you’re not familiar with this wonderful time of year, or have only heard of it in passing, let me loop you guys in. From June 5 through 11 this year, bars, restaurants and vendors from around the world celebrate the Negroni cocktail – an iconic mix of Campari, gin, and sweet red vermouth – to raise money and awareness for great causes. What started as just 100 bars in the US, has now grown into an International event and this year will be bigger than ever.

Negroni Week Cocktails: Past, Present and Future // stirandstrain.comWhile you’ll see me out to help the cause next week at a few of my favorite bars (remember to follow us along on Instagram as we’ve planned a few surprises!!) there are other ways you can help a charity out. A portion of proceeds from the sales of nationally-available items such as a Campari-branded red bicycle from PUBLIC, a Negroni-red Baggu tote, and fire red-tinted sunglasses from Sunski, among other items, will be donated to charity. National partner Lyft will also offer coupon codes to new users to help riders safely get around during Negroni Week.

Campari, the star of the cocktail itself, is committed to supporting the trade community’s fundraising efforts as well. This year, Campari is teaming up with both the U.S. Bartenders’ Guild (USBG), as well as SHARE – a nationwide community that offers support to women diagnosed with breast and ovarian cancers – via SHARE’s partnership with Speed Rack, the all-female speed bartending competition benefitting breast cancer research, education and prevention. Multi-city events will be held with both the USBG and SHARE/Speed Rack to raise money for each charitable cause.

I am a staunch believer in volunteer and charity work and grew up in a community that placed a strong emphasis on these values. That’s why I’m participating once again to help spread the word. While going for a drink out may seem almost like a lay up to support a charity, the point is, it supports a charity. Everyone, and every bit (or drink), counts.

Because Negroni Week is also a celebration of the cocktail, I’ve teamed up with Campari to create 3 of my own variations on the cocktail to represent its Past, Present and Future (and have named them such).

Negroni Week Cocktails: Past, Present and Future // stirandstrain.comNegroni:Past (double vanilla Negroni float)

Representing the past, the Negroni: Past Cocktail harkens back to old timey soda fountain shops where ice cream floats were an indulgent treat for everyone. Here we’ve made this an “adult’s only” cocktail with double the vanilla. Vanilla infused gin, Campari, vanilla ice cream and sweet vermouth “sauce” is a refreshing, and super indulgent, treat for the summer. Optionally, if you can get your hands on some acid phosphate you can give your float extra tang just like the OG soda jerks did.

Negroni Week Cocktails: Past, Present and Future // stirandstrain.com1-1/2 ounces gin, such as Bulldog London Dry Gin, infused with vanilla (recipe follows)
1 ounce Campari
2-3 scoops vanilla ice cream
8 ounces sweet vermouth, such as Cinzano 1757
optional: 1/2 tsp acid phosphate

  1. Start by reducing the sweet vermouth. To do this, heat sweet vermouth in a small sauce pan over medium heat until it reduces to about 2 ounces. Set aside.
  2. In a pint glass, or soda fountain glass, add 2-3 scoops of vanilla ice cream. Then, in a mixing glass filled 2/3 with ice, add in vanilla infused gin and Campari (and acid phosphate if using). Stir to chill about 20 seconds. Strain mixture over the ice cream.
  3. Garnish your adult float with the sweet vermouth “sauce”.

Negroni Week Cocktails: Past, Present and Future // stirandstrain.comVanilla Infused Gin

8 ounces gin, such as Bulldog London Dry Gin
3 to 4 vanilla beans

  1. Chop vanilla beans into 1″ pieces. Add vanilla pieces and gin into an airtight container and seal. Leave in a cool, dark place for 3 to 4 days.
  2. Strain the mixture into a new container when desired taste has been reached.
  3. Vanilla infused gin will keep at optimal taste up to 6 months.

Negroni Week Cocktails: Past, Present and Future // stirandstrain.comNegroni:Present

Just because the original Negroni cocktail uses gin, does not mean that today’s has to. One of the biggest trends of the current cocktail era is to take a classic drink and swap out the main spirit. Mezcal has exploded onto the bar scene and you can find it popping up in most bar’s menus. And with good reason, it’s delicious. For this cocktail, we swap out the gin with mezcal, keep our friends Campari and sweet vermouth, and add a touch of green bell pepper syrup to highlight the vegetal nuances of the mezcal.

1 ounce mezcal
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth, such as Cinzano 1757
1 ounce Campari
1/2 ounce green bell pepper syrup (recipe follows)
large strip of orange zest for garnish

In a mixing glass 2/3 filled with ice, add in mezcal, sweet vermouth, Campari and bell pepper syrup. Stir for 20 seconds to chill and then strain over a large ice cube in a rocks glass. Garnish with orange zest.

Negroni Week Cocktails: Past, Present and Future // stirandstrain.comGreen Bell Pepper Syrup

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 green bell pepper, chopped

  1. In a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat, add to the pan the sugar and water. Stir to dissolve and add in green bell pepper. Stir and bring to a boil. Immediately remove from heat and cover.
  2. Let sit one hour, remove bell peppers, and let syrup finish cooling to room temperature.
  3. Store syrup in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one month.

Negroni Week Cocktails: Past, Present and Future // stirandstrain.comNegroni:Future

When you think of the future of cocktails, do you picture some mad scientists conducting experiments in a lab? I do. With the future in mind, I’m highlighting the sharp bitterness of the Negroni with gentian smoke for a take on the smoked cocktail. This cocktail requires a blow torch, so you know it’s fun.

Negroni Week Cocktails: Past, Present and Future // stirandstrain.com1 tablespoon dried gentian root
1 ounce gin, such as Bulldog London Dry Gin
1 ounce sweet vermouth, such as Cinzano 1757
3/4 ounce Campari
dehydrated orange slice for garnish

  1. Start by moving to a well ventilated room. Place gentian root in a shallow, heat proof dish (I also like mini disposable pie plates!). Get a kitchen torch or long fireplace lighter ready.
  2. Next, fill a mixing glass 2/3 with ice. Pour in gin, sweet vermouth and Campari. Stir to chill 20 seconds.
  3. Immediately begin smoking the gentian root by holding a flame to it until starts to smoke. As soon as it begins to smoke, place a glass upside down over the smoke to “catch” the smoke. When the glass is filled, slide a postcard or piece of cardstock over the hole to keep the smoke in.
  4. Turn the glass right side up, keeping the hole covered. When ready to serve, remove the card and strain the mixed cocktail into the smoke. Garnish with a dehydrated orange wheel.

Negroni Week Cocktails: Past, Present and Future // stirandstrain.com

For more information on Negroni Week, and for a list of bars participating, visit negroniweek.com and follow @CampariUS and @Imbibe on Facebook, @CampariUSA and @Imbibe on Instagram, @Campari and @Imbibe on Twitter, and engaging with the #NegroniWeek hashtag.

Steak Island Cocktail

Steak Island Cocktails // stirandstrain.comIt’s Super Bowl weekend. I only know this because I was asked to come up with a cocktail you would want to drink at a party celebrating this fact. Well, it’s a drink that I would want to drink at this kind of party. And I guess the name is quite telling that I’d name it Steak Island, however, let’s talk about why I gave it this name.Steak Island Cocktails // stirandstrain.com

I go into this a little in the article I wrote on Serious Eats, but let me elaborate on this just a wee bit here. Since this is a safe place to ramble on and you readers are somewhat more forgiving of these overly long explanations (well, some of you aren’t and you know who you are).

For the most part, I like to live an uncluttered life.. actually, let me stop you here if you’re just searching for “super bowl cocktails” and you’re still reading at this point. Might I suggest you just scroll down to the recipe? Anyways, I’m the type of person who loves, with a capital L, to throw stuff away and have lots of clean surfaces. I’m a believer that an uncluttered space means an uncluttered mind and yes, I might just use the excuse that the studio space is too cluttered to photograph in right now so I’m just going to be over here watching tv and procrastinating. But mainly I’m not a person who holds on to stuff. However, I do have a few exceptions for collectibles. The major collections I have are my Tiki mugs, which need a new cabinet (see, I still need to sequester the collections) and, since I used to DJ out here with much, much more frequency than I do now, my 1960’s girl group and girl garage band 45s. That was mainly it for stuff I held on to that took up space. You know what doesn’t take up a lot of space that is fun to hang on to if you’re into cocktails: vintage drink stirrers. These are highly curated because I can’t justify keeping more on hand than what will fit in a Highball glass.Steak Island Cocktails // stirandstrain.com

Knowing that I liked some of these kitschy treasures from restaurants and bars that once were, a friend of mine found herself at a flea market somewhere in Arizona a few years ago and happened upon someone’s stockpile of stirrers for sale. Sifting through the amazing variety of brightly-colored sticks, she selected what she thought I’d most like to have (and seriously did an amazing job). One of my favorites though was this black stick with gold lettering that just said “steak island” on it with this little grass hut. Either it was the bizarre combination of this little tropical hut imagined to house giant steak laden plates, or that it was coming out of Texas and I was to believe there was something tropical-like there, but either way, I immediately knew someday I’d need to make a drink in honor of this establishment’s namesake. Super Bowl Sunday seemed like the most appropriate “holiday” to make such a drink.Steak Island Cocktails // stirandstrain.com

So what better to wash down plates of rich, meaty foods than some light and refreshing effervescent cocktails…made with beer! And… steak sauce!

Steak Island Cocktails // stirandstrain.comIf I was going to make a cocktail that included the word steak, then I figured some steak sauce as an extra special ingredient was in order. So what you get is a drink close to a Michelada with a heaping amount of tangy, umami-filled A1 Steak Sauce (or whatever sauce you’d like). Personally, growing up I was not a fan of steak, but I did like dipping the steak in A1 and then sucking all the sauce off the meat and tossing the meat away (I wasn’t a picky eater but the texture of steak I found to be most offensive to my young self). Now I skip the formalities and just drink the sauce here.

Intrigued? You should be, so let’s make some cocktails!

Yields 6-8 drinks for a party
8 ounces red and yellow bell pepper slices
14 ounces freshly squeezed lime juice from about 14 limes
4 ounces steak sauce, such as A1
1/4 ounce freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste
48 ounces lager, such as Pacifico
Lime wheels and additional bell pepper slices for garnish

  • In the bottom of a pitcher, muddle together the bell peppers and lime juice. Add the steak sauce and pepper. If your sauce is not on the salty side, add some additional salt to your liking. Cover and refrigerate the base at least 4 hours and up to overnight.
  • To serve, add beer straight to the pitcher and stir gently to combine, serving into ice-filled glasses. Alternately, you can pour about 2 1/2 ounces of the cocktail base into a highball glass filled with ice. Top off with about 5 ounces of the beer and stir gently to combine.
  • Garnish glasses with lime wheels and bell pepper slices, serve.

Like I said, it’s super refreshing and easy drinking, a great pair to richer foods. The steak sauce has a touch of sweetness and adds some underlying umami to the cocktail. Mixed with fresh citrus juice, it adds both a base note and a tangy brightness to your fizzy beer mixer. Muddled bell peppers offer a subtle vegetal flavor and complexity that’ll keep you sipping. I chose to top it all off with a lager so that the beer doesn’t overpower the drink with too much hops or bitterness or whatever special flavor it might have been brewed with. I enjoyed with Pacifico, Christopher liked some Foster’s with his.