The Negroni has always been a democracy: equal proportions of three liquors most of the diviest bars would have, each taking up equal real estate of your tastebuds. I claim no ownership of it, but I feel like it was taken from me—and too soon.
Matt Buchanan called it during last year's Negroni Week, and one year later, he still feels the loss. I do, too.
I miss when it was so novel I had to look up a recipe.
I miss when its tint made me feel a little mischievous; when it got me in the nose—when I knew “the secret handshake,” yet still stumbled to say “sbagliato” right.
I miss when there didn’t need to be a “next Negroni”; when I wasn’t sick of typing “bitter is better.”
I miss when it wasn’t “the kale of cocktails,” and when it was served next to Manhattans instead of cupcakes.
Robert Simonson wrote in the foreword to an entire book on the drink that:
At this rate of ascendancy, the Negroni will graduate in a few years’ time from its status as a secondary classic to the halcyon plane occupied by the martini, Manhattan, old-fashioned, and select other top-drawer cocktails.
Perfection knows its place.
But I fear that instead, it’s sidling up to fallible specimens: Jello (sometimes in shots), cupcakes, cans. It’s not its fault—I suppose it’s ours: We squeezed it so hard, it slipped through our fingers.
A mere 5 years ago, Imbibe wrote:
“While many of us love this drink unabashedly, your average consumer has probably never heard of it and many more can’t identify with or enjoy that characteristic dry bitterness that comes when gin and Campari unite.”
Imbibe nows throws a Negroni Week—aka Negroni Weak—where you can Instagram your drink like it’s avocado toast. It’s this week, in case you’d like to join. There are 6,041 participating venues.
It doesn’t mean the Negroni is bad now—it’s just everywhere. And everywhere is sometimes for the better. When things get more popular, they become more inclusive.
But at what point does more popular also mean watery, weaker? It was naughty in its novelty—but what is it now, now that it’s slept with everyone?
Its qualities remain: bitter, sweet, perfect. Same bones, same formula—if now known by heart. It’s just uneventful every way else.
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