Sep 17, 2023 Drinks
This year Negroni Week is celebrating its 11th birthday. After a decade of dedicating a single drink to raising money for charity, this year is focused on the timeless bonds that exist around this iconic drink – the bond between Campari and the Negroni; the bond between Campari and the bartending community; and the bond between Negroni Week and the community.
What bond do you have with the Negroni? Why is it special for you?
The Negroni is simply one of those timeless classics – a fundamental of cocktail bartending. It showcases how just three ingredients can come together and create something greater than the sum of their parts. I also love how there are so many variations on the Negroni that you can achieve by switching out or omitting one of the ingredients. Americanos, Sbagliatos and White Negronis are some of the more popular ones, yet there are other excellent versions out there, such as the Right Hand with rum and chocolate bitters, or the Old Pal with rye whiskey and a blend of dry and sweet vermouth, which I think are exquisite drinks. The Negroni is a really great beverage to introduce bartenders and cocktail enthusiasts. It shows the power of substituting different ingredients to produce a whole range of different experiences.
Tell us about the best Negroni you ever had.
That is a really hard choice to make! I’m definitely biased, but I think the best classic Negroni out there is the one we do at Parasol & Swing. Together my colleagues and I sat down one night and went through a dozen or so iterations to find what we believe to be the perfect balance. With a special blend of vermouths, and by adding in an additional splash of navy proof gin, the whole thing just sings! We also pre-batch ours so the whole thing is perfectly chilled and diluted for each serve, giving every customer our spot-on best version of the Negroni. Besides that, though, I recall a summer afternoon spent sipping on Americanos down at the Wynyard Quarter, which was such a perfect match between good weather, good drinks and good times. It’s been a long winter for everyone and I can’t tell you how much I am looking forward to experiences like that again!
What is special about the Quill cocktail and your bond with it?
The Quill is a peculiar one to bring up, not many guests ask for one – but it is one of my go-to recommendations if someone is looking to branch out and try something a bit different from the classic Negroni. A couple dashes of absinthe really go a long way, and completely transform the drink. I used to have a colleague whose favorite Negroni was the Quill. It’s funny how certain drinks can instantly remind us of people. He moved out of town so I haven’t heard from him in a while, but I hope he’s enjoying one somewhere.
Do you remember your best conversation / moment involving a Negroni?
Yes! I recall one night down at Caretaker with some mates and we all started ordering different Negronis. A real standout was my friend’s ‘signature order’ with Campari Cask Tales and Bloody Shiraz Gin. It was such a great time to sit around as a group and nerd out over cocktails – of course with lots of sampling going on. When I think drinks and great conversations with friends around a dimly lit table, that cocktail holds a special nostalgic place for me.
How do you bond with your customers and give them a lasting impression?
I think foremost it’s about having a holistic view towards hospitality. When you think of going out and ordering drinks as a guest, sure you are paying for the drink itself, but also for customer service. Whether that be helping piece together a perfect recommendation based on someone’s mood and palate, or sharing in the fun with some quippy banter, leaving a lasting impression is foremost about engaging with your guests, understanding their needs (even when it’s just to be left alone!) and making sure they have the best experience you can possibly give.
How have you seen the Negroni change over your career? Has it grown more popular?
In all honestly the Negroni has always been a staple in our venue – we even go so far to pre-batch them in little serving bottles to speed up service at the rate they fly out. Working at a cocktail bar based around bespoke cocktails, I have seen plenty of Negroni variations as we rotate through seasonal menus. My favourite is the one we did for Negroni Week last year: a mash-up between the White Negroni and the Sbagliato which we infused with chamomile and grapefruit – delish!
People always have a favorite bar, drink, bartender they love to tell their friends about. What do you think makes the bond between bartenders and cocktail lovers so strong?
I think it comes down to human nature – everyone loves to be taken care of and treated special. That works from both directions; as a customer I love being able to sit down and have someone make and serve me drinks, especially after a long week of work. Equally so, though, the joy you get from customers who really appreciate what you are doing for them is such a rewarding feeling – you can really tell when someone is just relaxed and having a great time. To know that you just made that person’s day, night, week or whatever is super gratifying, and is really the reason people fall in love with the hospitality industry.
What would you like to see start, stop or change within our industry to help those strong timeless bonds continue?
A close friend of mine once made a joke that has always stuck with me: “The world would be such a better place if everyone did a mandatory year in hospitality.” I think this highlights a disconnect between the industry and some guests, who don’t understand what being in a bar is all about. Whether that’s the work that goes into making great cocktails, being respectful towards your server, appreciating the knowledge that goes into understanding spirits, wines, cocktails and so forth, or just generally knowing how to exist in a space shared with other guests. Really what I’m saying is that a bit of empathy and appreciation go a long way. You can’t just expect people to know these things, though – I think in New Zealand we have a societal view that has developed over decades that bars are for getting wasted and partying, which realistically is only a small part of the culture that exists around drinking. The more people get out into bars and put themselves into a different experience – maybe sitting at the bar, or having the server pick out a fine spirit or cocktail – the more I think we will see this continue to change.
30ml Rosso Vermouth
65ml Strawberry Prosecco Syrup
Chill and carbonate all ingredients
Pour over ice spear in highball glass
Garnish with strawberry slice