For the fourth year in a row, bars and restaurants across the Houston-area will be celebrating Negroni Week. Sponsored by Imbibe magazine and Campari, the worldwide event that runs through 12 promotes the classic cocktail that combines equal parts gin, Campari and sweet vermouth. For every Negroni purchased, $1 is donated to a charity of the bar owners' choosing.
Many bartenders tout the Negroni as their favorite drink. The cocktail's bitter kick sets in apart from sweeter, more popular options. Also, the simple recipe provides for endless variations where both the gin and vermouth are swapped for other spirits. Those factors help explain the event's success. In only two years, Negroni Week participation has grown from 16 places in 2014 to almost 75 in 2016.
Admittedly, a barrel-aged Negroni probably doesn't pair well with signature dishes like octopus carpaccio or the namesake Bistecca Fiorentina porterhouse. However, it will stimulate the appetite, which will help leave room for one extra spoonful of mac and cheese. The restaurant will donate $1 from every cocktail sold to the American Cancer Society.
Beverage manager Kimberly Paul (on the short list for Houston's most underrated bartender) is taking global approach to the Negroni with seven cocktails inspired by different countries. For example, she's serving a Brazilian variation made with cachacha and a Mexican variation made with mezcal. Evelyn's Park in Bellaire will receive $1 from each cocktail sold.
Not surprisingly, your favorite bartender's favorite bar will serve up no fewer than five Negorni options, including frozen Jungle Birds (essentially, a rum-based Negorni), draft Boulevardiers (rye whiskey Negroni), and sparking Campari jello shots. Grand Prize will donate $1 for each drink sold to the Wildlife Center of Texas.
The pub within this British-American tavern may be known for its whisky selection, but the bartenders have a flair for cocktails, too. The five Negroni variations include a riff on the classic Rusty Nail (made with Scotch and Drambuie) as well as the "Good Campion" made with Hell-Cat Maggie Whiskey and Cynar (in place of Campari). Hunky Dory will donate $1 from each $10 cocktail sold to BARC.
The CultureMap Tastemaker Awards Restaurant of the Year and its companion bar are each serving three Negroni variations for $11 each. At Pax, consider the Hidden Hand made with mezcal, or head to Zimm's for a Pink Flamingo that adds pineapple juice, lime juice, and condensed milk to the traditional recipe. Pax will donate $2 to Plant It Forward, and Zimm's will donate $2 to Child Advocates.
Rather than create a special menu, the Midtown bar has simply discounted all four of its house cocktails that feature Campari to $10 and will donate an impressive $5 from each drink sold to the Houston Area Women's Center. Options include the Velvet Sun (vodka, lime juice, ginger beer) and the Bitter Rival (rum, pomegranate molasses).