Negroni Week, a seven-day celebration of the classic cocktail, begins today and runs through Sunday, June 7, at various venues across the city. Around the world, over a thousand bars and restaurants are also participating in the program, stirring classic and contemporary versions of the iconic cocktail. In one project, ten Denver bars have joined together, offering drink specials and events whose proceeds will benefit local charities.
Preparations for the week began almost a month ago at Green Russell, where beverage manager Adam Hodak plotted out a strategy to break a record by putting together the world’s largest barrel-aged Negroni. “The largest we could find was from 2011,” Hodak says of the record he will break this week. The Negroni from 2011 consisted of 30 gallons of the cocktail, made with equal parts gin, Campari and sweet vermouth (the original recipe). Hodak’s batch will consist of 68 bottles of each of those three spirits, for a total of 204.
Hodak’s 53.5-gallon barrel is six years old and was previously used to age Wild Turkey bourbon. It was delivered to Green Russell last month along with over 200 bottles of booze, which took Hodak and bartender Alex Lerman an hour to empty into the barrel. After the 28-day aging period, the finished product will be available to consume at Green Russell all week long, starting at a Negroni Week kick-off party tonight from 6 to 10 p.m.
“This is the first year we’re doing something of this magnitude,” Hodak says. “We ran two Negroni specials last year — we didn’t run anything crazy special like this.” He estimates that the full barrel will yield 2,000 cocktails. Admission to the party is $10, but includes two cocktails. The record-breaking, barrel-aged Negronis will be $12 for the rest of the week, with $2 from each sale going to Brent’s Place, which provides housing for children undergoing cancer treatment. On Monday, one hundred percent of the proceeds will be donated.
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Now in its third year, Negroni Week will be celebrated by hundreds of bars in the United States. The ten Denver bars that have banded together in this project include Acorn, Baur's Restaurant & Listening Lounge, Colt & Gray, Humboldt, Rooster & Moon Coffee Pub, Root Down, Session Kitchen, Squeaky Bean, Star Bar, Terminal Bar and, of course, Green Russell. For a complete list of the participating bars and restaurants along with the charities they're supporting, see the Negroni Week website.
Green Russell’s Negroni was made with Bulldog gin, Campari, and Cinzano sweet vermouth. “It’s a lightly floral, citrusy London dry,” Hodak says of the gin he’s using to break a record. “It doesn’t stray too far from the traditional London Dry flavor profile.”
And the Cinzano? “It’s just a really nice classic sweet vermouth. It’s a really nice, well-rounded, bittersweet vermouth. It’s well-balanced — that’s why it’s been around for so long.”