The Plight of the Negroni: Why Bartenders Love to Torture This Cocktail

All over the country, the classic cocktail is being repurposed in impressively sadistic ways.

Pity the Negroni. Not only is this colorful cocktail—equal parts Campari, gin, and sweet vermouth—eternally upstaged by the Martini and Manhattan, it takes much more abuse at the hands of sadistic bartenders.

Everywhere you look, the Negroni is being deconstructed, smoked, solidified, gelatinized, flamed, dehydrated, foamed, carbonated, frozen, clarified, and subjected to other forms of mixological torture.


Right now, the Negroni is available as a bottled cocktail at Harry Denton's Starlight Room in San Francisco, and as a carbonated beverage at Spoonbar in nearby Healdsburg.

Up in Seattle, at Liberty Bar, they're putting the ingredients in minature barrels and aging the mixture for a few weeks. Across the country in Philadelphia, the folks at Alla Spina have it on tap, right next to the beer.

Even more treacherously, the Imperial in Portland makes a high-proof Negroni that is put into an atomizer and then set on fire atop another cocktail. And when San Francisco's Hakkasan opens in December, the Negroni will be gassed with Grand Marnier-infused wood-chip smoke.

So why do bartenders insist on messing with this cocktail in particular? Well, the drink is rich and boozy and bitter (like many celebrities), yet entirely uncomplicated. But more important: Recipes are meant to be broken, especially easy ones, and the tripartite simplicity just begs for variation.

And so perhaps it was inevitable that experimental mixologists would substitute other ingredients in place of the cocktail's standards and experiment with every insidious molecular format they could think of. Because in cocktails, as in life, you only hurt the ones you love.

—Camper English is an international cocktails and spirits writer and the publisher of

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