25 Orlando bars celebrating Negroni Week 

Bittersweet symphony

click to enlarge negroni1.jpg

It's the most ... wonderful ... time ... of the year! No, not Christmastime. Negroni Week, June 6-12, is in full swing, and for ambitious bartenders and smart drinkers, it's an annual chance to shine. The event, co-sponsored by Campari and Imbibe magazine, was launched in 2013 as a way to raise funds for various charities while raising awareness of one of the best cocktails known to humanity. Last year, more than 3,500 establishments all over the world stirred up over $320,000 for charitable causes, and this year, more than 6,000 venues have already signed on. We've listed area participants (below), but you can browse venues around the country at negroniweek.com.

The Negroni has been around since the beginning of the 20th century, but its popularity has exploded in the past few years. Bartenders love it because of its simplicity – combining equal parts of three ingredients (Campari, gin, sweet vermouth), it's so easy anyone can make it – and the myriad elegant variations to be spun from that simplicity. Some are so long-established as to be classics in their own right now, like the Boulevardier (Campari, sweet vermouth, bourbon), the Old Pal (Campari, dry vermouth, rye), the Americano (Campari, sweet vermouth, club soda) and the Negroni Sbagliato (Campari, sweet vermouth, sparkling wine). "Negroni Week is great," says Jennifer Harton of Lil Indies. "Introducing people to a classic, getting to switch it up a little and get creative, plus donating to charity at the same time."

For some bars, it's a chance to create strange and fantastical drinks or even foods inspired by the Negroni. Along with the actual cocktail, Kiwi's Pub in Altamonte Springs is selling Negroni cupcakes: chocolate cake with sweet vermouth and gin in the cake mix, iced with Campari buttercream icing and sprinkled with orange zest. The Guesthouse is serving Negroni paletas, ice pops made with Campari, St. Augustine gin, Cocchi Torino, rhubarb, peach, cucumber, lemon and Red Zinger tea. And Vespr is splashing out a Negroni that'll get you wired: their Café Negroni incorporates cold-brew concentrate rather than gin.

Other creative Negronis filling glasses this week: Citrus Restaurant's aged Negroni (Bombay gin, Lillet, Campari, house-made grapefruit bitters and sea salt aged 34 days in an oak barrel) and the Ravenous Pig's carbonated Negroni Sbagliato with Campari, Contratto red vermouth and orange roussone on tap. Some bars plan a different Negroni every night. The Matador promises to pull out the blender one night (no better summer drink than a Negroni slushie!), and Lil Indies has posted a whole Negroni menu.

"The Negroni Week menu (like all of our menus, other than classics) is a team effort. ... We talk about ideas together, and help each other fine-tune drinks," Harton says. One that's caught our eye in particular is Maybe Things Will Be Better in Chicago: barrel-aged Damrak Gin, plum and fennel Campari, and Alvear amontillado sherry. Harton named it for friends who are moving to Chicago next month: former Orlando Weekly music editor Ashley Belanger and comedian Larry Fulford. "Two people this town will miss greatly," Harton says. "The actual drink concept came from a beer I had at Ten10's Tweak'd Fest, a plum/fennel saison. Larry and Ashley both like Tom Waits, and being that it's a very bittersweet cocktail, I just thought it would be fitting."

Bittersweet indeed. Check your preferred bars' social media feeds for nightly specials through Sunday, June 12.

LOCAL BARS CELEBRATING NEGRONI WEEK

Blu on the Avenue
326 S. Park Ave., Winter Park
Charity: Winter Park Day Nursery

The Breezeway Restaurant and Grill
112 E. First St., Sanford
Charity: Pet Rescue by Judy

Cask and Larder
565 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park
Charity: Pancreatic Cancer Action Network

Citrus Restaurant
821 N. Orange Ave.
Charity: Florida Little Dog Rescue

The Courtesy
114 N. Orange Ave.
Charity: The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis

Devine Wine & Grill
15 Alafaya Woods Blvd., Oviedo
Charity: Devaney's Cares Foundation

F&D Kitchen and Bar
1541 International Parkway, Lake Mary
Charity: Farm Share

The Guesthouse
1321 N. Mills Ave.
Charity: Pet Rescue by Judy

Hanson's Shoe Repair
27 E. Pine St.
Charity: ASPCA

Herman's Loan Office
22 W. Pine St.
Charity: ASPCA

Kiwi's Pub & Grill
801 State Road 436, Altamonte Springs
Charity: The Russell Home for Atypical Children

Lil' Indies
1036 N. Mills Ave.
Charity: Fern Creek Elementary Food Bank

The Matador
724 Virginia Drive
Charity: Battle for Brandy

The Osprey Tavern
4899 New Broad St.
Charity: Harbor House of Central Florida

The Public House
12046 Collegiate Way
Charity: The Institute of International Education

Ravello
Four Seasons Resort Orlando, 10100 Dream Tree Blvd.
Charity: Give Kids the World

The Ravenous Pig
1234 N. Orange Ave., Winter Park
Charity: American Cancer Society

Rusteak
1568 Maguire Road, Ocoee; also 2625 Edgewater Drive
Charity: A Better Life Pet Rescue

Seasons 52
463 E. Altamonte Drive, Altamonte Springs; also 7700 W. Sand Lake Road
Charity: Boys & Girls Clubs of America

Siro Urban Italian Kitchen
Orlando World Center Marriott, 8701 World Center Drive
Charity: Melissa Knott Fund

Vespr Coffeebar
626 N. Alafaya Trail
Charity: Feeding Children Everywhere

Will's Pub
1042 N. Mills Ave.
Charity: Fern Creek Elementary Food Bank

The Woods Orlando
49 N. Orange Ave.
Charity: Helen David Relief Fund

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