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Thirsty? Negroni Week returns to Austin bars through June 11 with cocktails galore

Arianna Auber
aauber@statesman.com
The Negroni, a striking ruby red color because of the addition of Campari, is on special at local bars like Backbeat this week as part of Negroni Week.

Just under 100 Austin bars and restaurants (and, apparently, even a South Congress hat shop) are participating in this year’s Negroni Week— both a boozy celebration of one of the world’s best classic cocktails and a charity event that raises money for the cause of each bar’s choice.

The fundraiser, started in 2013 by Imbibe magazine and Campari, one of the central ingredients in Negronis, has brought in collectively $900,000 from participating bars around the world to charitable causes and expects to raise that total significantly more this year.

Here’s how it works: Starting today, visit one of the Negroni Week venues, whether that’s Weather Up, the two brick-and-mortar locations of Via 313, or Prohibition Creamery, and buy a Negroni. That’s it. That’s all you have to do. The bars will take care of the rest, with a portion of each cocktail purchase going toward the charity of their choice.

But what’s a Negroni? Not the brand name of a high-design Italian suit maker, as a friend recently guessed, although he was right that it has Italian origins.

The Negroni is disarmingly simple — one part gin, one part sweet vermouth and one part Campari, stirred and served over ice with an orange twist — but its balance of botanical bite from the gin, the sweet and spicy tug-of-war from the vermouth and the final bitter punch from the Campari has been bewitching bartenders for years.

Many of them have decided to create their own riffs on the Negroni for the week-long event that runs through June 11. Here are some of the ones you won’t want to miss.

  • Want to introduce yourself to the classic before exploring all the fun versions of Negronis out there? Head to Italic tonight, where from 5 to 7 p.m., the Italian restaurant will have free pizza and $5 Negronis for a Negroni Week kick-off party. Proceeds from the drink will go toward No Kid Hungry.
  • The Spanish-focused dining spot Bullfight is keeping the Campari in its Negroni de España but adding a Spanish twist to almost every other ingredient, with St. George Rye Whiskey, cream sherry and Acha Rojo vermouth. Proceeds are being donated to the James Beard Foundation and Muttville.
  • Bullfight’s sister restaurant from the Parkside Projects family, Olive & June, is also changing it up — by making it frosty. The frozen Show Pony Negroni, with Malfy con Limone (an Italian lemon gin), Contratto Rosso Americano Vermouth, Aperol and rhubarb bitters, will feel mightily refreshing in this muggy weather.
  • El Burro, a Mexican eatery in the Lamar Union development, is also offering a frozen version with a Latin touch. The Frozen Mezcal Negroni features Mezcal El Silencio, Campari, a vermouth blend and orange juice and benefits the United States’ Bartenders Guild.
  • Just down the road from El Burro, top cocktail bar Backbeat will have two Negroni variations on special: the Spanish Negroni with fino sherry, Campari and a house blend of Spanish vermouths, and the Rosé Sbagliato with chilled rosé prosecco, strawberry-infused Campari, Punt e mes vermouth and grapefruit bitters.
  • The beer bar Waller Creek Pub House also has a strong selection of whiskey and other spirits and is staying mostly traditional with its Barrel-Aged Negroni. It’s got Dripping Springs Gin, Campari and sweet vermouth but then matured in a barrel at the bar.
  • Always a restaurant that raises the bar, Southern-inspired Olamaie is having not just one Negroni but daily Negroni  punch variations starting with a tiki riff today and sangria tomorrow. For a single-batch offering, go with Ola’s Aperitivo. One dollar from each drink benefits SHARE.
  • Another restaurant full of Southern Comfort isn’t missing out on the Negroni fun. Mattie’s at Green Pastures will have the Category 5 Negroni, with island rum, vermouth, lime oil and Campari that was steeped in tropical fruits available on its quaint lawn area. The drink helps out Water for People.

 New this year? The Negroni Stroll Down South Lamar on Thursday will take you to several of these bars and restaurants in one go. Buy a $25 wristband in advance to sample a Negroni riff at each place, starting with the Cedar Tavern at Eberly (offering a Strawberry Rum Negroni) at 6 p.m. and moving on to Backbeat, Vox Table, El Burro and the Highball.

Proceeds from all ticket sales benefit Speed Rack’s SHARE Cancer Support Initiative.

For more information, including the total list of participating Austin bars and restaurants, visit negroniweek.com.

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