In Food + Drink

In Search Of Australia’s Best Negronis

Brought to you by Campari

Celebrate 100 years of Negroni at Negroni Week, happening at venues around Australia from June 24 to 30.

Negroni. It’s a tradition, a legacy, a mixological institution. So much more than a beverage, this time-honoured aperitif has become the cocktail du jour in recent years.

What, exactly, is it about Negroni that keeps us coming back? For one thing, tastes have shifted to more complex flavours and modern classics. The Negroni, with its aromatic, bitter profile, was well-positioned to thrive.

Negroni’s beauty lies in its simplicity: the “holy trinity” of one part Campari, one part gin, and one part vermouth. As easy on the palette as it is on the eye (what Vogue calls a “rosé-on-acid hue”), Negroni boasts an intense flavour profile that’s difficult to resist.

Like all legendary drinks, Negroni also has a colourful mythology. Born in the early 20th century as an “Americano”, it wasn’t until Count Camillo Negroni  ordered staff at his local to swap out the soda for gin.

The Count’s creation endures as a sophisticated, minimalist, intense, and on-trend choice, with a flavour profile to satisfy modern tastes and the bitter side of life. And while some bartenders might remain doggedly loyal to the traditional recipe, the recent boom in gin and vermouth varieties has opened up the possibilities, with hundreds of different twists on the basic setup. Still, for all the alterations, purists and futurists tend to agree on one thing: there is no Negroni without Campari.

On the eve of its 100-year anniversary, in the lead up to June’s Negroni Week, we’re taking a trip through some of the best Australian Negronis you can wrap your bitter-loving lips around.

Maybe Sammy, Sydney

Maybe Sammy, Sydney

Photo: Maybe Sammy

Inspired by the achingly cool 1950s, when folks dressed to impress, Maybe Sammy is a Sydney cocktail institution where the classic drinks are named after equally iconic venues along the Las Vegas strip. But, not ones to mess with a formula that works, a classic Negroni is best enjoyed in the bar’s plush Art Deco surrounds of this Rocks favourite.

1806, Melbourne

Veteran shakers 1806 know a thing or two about how to ice up bitter brew. If “classic” is what the doctor ordered, look no further than this upstanding CBD institution: you’ll find London Dry Gin, Cinzano Rosso vermouth, and Campari in perfect 1:1:1 ratio at 1806, an archetypal take on the modern classic tipple that would have the good Count grinning from ear to ear.

Bar Americano, Melbourne

A Negroni at Bar Americano in Melbourne

Bar Americano. Photo: Supplied

If bars scored points for how hidden they manage to stay, then Melbourne’s cherished out-of-the-way gem Bar Americano rides the top of the leader board. Tucked away on a street off a street in the CBD’s Presgrave Lane, Bar Americano is a class act: a cosy 10-person nook, with iconic black-and-white checkered floor, a blackboard of aperitivi, and one of the finest Negronis you’ll sip this side of the equator.

Head mixer Matt Bax is staying mum on the exact concoction: “For the most part, it’s a straight-up Negroni but for a few a silly pieces of equipment. And for this reason, as it’s impossible to recreate in 99 per cent of bars, and especially at home, we bottle it and sell it retail.” As for the gin? “We use a London Dry.”

Earl’s Juke Joint, Sydney

Nestled behind the kitsch façade of Newton’s former Betta Meats Continental Smallgoods butchery, Earl’s is up there with Sydney’s most enduring and sought-after late-night haunts. Convivial head ‘tender and Earl’s owner, Pasan Wijesena, oversees a delicious Negroni: a classic take true to the Count Casoni signature, enjoyed in style amidst deco downlights, noir frames, and a generous 12-metre-long mahogany bar.

Canvas Cocktail & Wine Bar, Brisbane

Canvas Cocktail & Wine Bar, Brisbane

Canvas Cocktail & Wine Bar. Photo: Supplied

Canvas Cocktail and Wine Bar presents the smoked Negroni Series, using an in-house vermouth made with fortified grappa, with herbs including wormwood, sage and thyme. Served over hand-carved ice and garnished with fresh orange. Shaking up the 1:1:1 ratio here, opting for 20mLs of vermouth, to 25mLs of gin and 30mLs Campari and smoked with your choice of Pineapple & Cassia bark, Branca Menta steeped Rosemary and Cardamon & Mandarin – all in the name o maximising the drink’s delightful bitterness.

Caffe Bartolo, Sydney

Surry Hills’ Caffe Bartolo has built a solid reputation for its stunning fare and tantalising cocktails, which is little wonder, given that Jared Merlino (Kittyhawk, Big Poppa’s) is working his magic here. Though they do a mean Autumn cocktail menu, Bartolo’s Negroni truly stands out from the pack: one of Sydney’s best and brightest, for sure.

Rosetta Terrace, Rockpool, Sydney

Rosetta Terrace, Sydney

Rosetta Terrace. Photo: Rockpool Group

Rosetta on The Rocks has always been a breezy choice for a tasty Italian affair: antipasti, oven fired pizzas, oxtail and saffron risotto, and a drinks list to die for. The drinks menu is no slouch either – make the most of this stunning spot and imbibe a few of the house special Campari blends. The classic Negroni here in Neil Perry’s loungeroom is one for all time.

The Everleigh, Melbourne

A Negroni at The Everleigh in Melbourne

Photo: Supplied

Patrons lucky enough to have enjoyed the breezy, elegant surrounds of The Everleigh know where the standard lies – here, through incredible attention to detail, flavour and a thoughtful mix of fresh and modern ingredients.

The Worlds 50 Best Bars once awarded The Everleigh with the best Negroni they’d ever come across, and the truth is all in the Campari and the vermouth. The Everleigh head mixologist Michael Madrusan fuses sweet vermouth here with traditional London dry gin, obligatory Campari and a dash of water for balance. It’s so good they had to bottle it in a single serve back-pocket variety.

Frisk. Small Bar, Perth

Frisk Small Bar, Perth

Frisk. Small Bar, Perth. Photo: Supplied

This cosy Northbridge den always wears their gin on their sleeve: a dedicated gin den where Negroni is right at home. The Frisk blend? Campari meets gin and Cinzano Rosso here for a neat, crisp and deliciously bitey rosé-on-acid experience.

FYI: be sure to do a little frisking around their deeper catalogue – amongst an extensive cocktail and jugs list, you’ll find the Wake Me Up: Negroni’s second cousin, which features a delectable blend of Wake Me Up Inside gin, Campari, cold brew, tonic, and orange.

QT, Melbourne, Sydney, Gold Coast

Who doesn’t love a good hotel bar (especially when they serve a delicious nightcap?) Last year during Negroni week, the boutique bars at QT Hotels came up with the Bitter Sweet Symphony: a classic in-house blend of Campari, gin, and vermouth served in an old-fashioned tumbler. QT also raised eyebrows with another unique twist – the White Negroni, featuring Bulldog gin, Suze gentian liqueur, and Lillet Blonde. Alas, purists should best stick to the Symphony, lest the cardinal rule be broken: “There is no Negroni without Campari!

(Lead image courtesy of Campari)

For more information about participating bars and Negroni Week 2019 events that are happening near you visit the Campari website.

Drink responsibly.

Published 03 June, 2019