Internationally celebrated, Negroni Week starts on Monday, September 12th, 2022 and runs until Sunday, September 18th, 2022. Bars, restaurants and mixologists celebrate this iconic classic Italian cocktail during this revered week, and also all year round.
To celebrate the classic Negroni cocktail WanderEater sits down with Ashleigh Forster, one of the Beverage Managers at Eataly Toronto. She is a certified sommelier with a particular focus on developing and maintaining the Italian wine, Aperitivo, and Amari selection across all Eataly restaurants. Ashleigh helps us to understand Negroni 101 and dives deep into what we need to know about the classic Negroni cocktail.
We sat down with Ashleigh Forster, one of the Beverage Managers at Eataly Toronto, to talk all things Negroni Week in Toronto:
Earlier this year Eataly’s Trattoria Milano launched a new menu containing imaginative and unique takes on the Negroni. “The Big Smoke” is a must-try for scotch-lovers and adventurous Torontonians! The extensive Negroni menu (that includes The Big Smoke) at Trattoria Milano and the to-go options are also great offerings for cocktail lovers, available year-round.
What is the history of The Negroni?
The story starts in 1919, a time where most cocktail drinkers were enjoying the classic Americano made with Campari, sweet vermouth, a splash of soda and an orange twist. One day Count Camillo Negroni walked into his local taverna, Caffè Casoni in Florence, after a particularly stressful day of being a Count and asked his barman to stiffen up his beloved Americano, so the bartender replaced the soda water with gin creating the Negroni as we know it today.
What makes the Negroni so special?
The beauty of the Negroni lies in its simplicity. Made with only 3 ingredients – and in a time where bartenders have been more inclined to create cocktails that go above and beyond – the Negroni is a breath of fresh air, letting the high-quality ingredients really speak for themselves. The cocktail creates a space where bitter, sweet, and aromatics come together to create a beautifully balanced sip.
What is the difference between a classic negroni, Negroni Bianco, or Negroni Caffè?
At Eataly Toronto, our classic Negroni keeps the same elements of the original: Campari, sweet vermouth, gin, and an orange garnish. For the Negroni Bianco, or “White Negroni,” we’ve switched out the Campari and vermouth for clear versions like Luxardo Bitter Bianco and Carpano Bianco, along with adding grapefruit bitters and a grapefruit twist instead of the traditional orange garnish. The Negroni Caffè features house-infused Coffee Campari, which adds another depth of flavor and rounds out the cocktail.
Tell us about the inspiration behind the various imaginative and unique tastes on the Negroni at Eataly?
As an iconic Italian staple, we wanted to pay homage to the classic Negroni while still having fun experimenting with a variety of flavours for new creations. At Eataly Toronto, we have the benefit of access to a multitude of spirits and liquors that we frequently test by switching out existing Negroni ingredients and replacing them with another. For example, we might swap out one style of gin for another, one bitter for another, or the sweet vermouth with an alternative sweet element, all of which creates a new flavour profile that tastes different on the palate to the classic Negroni.
What is the best food pairing with a classic negroni, Negroni Bianco, or Negroni Caffè?
While pairing wines with food can be a little more straightforward due to the distinctive flavours of the wine, pairing cocktails and food can be trickier as the alcohol in cocktails tends to overwhelm your palate but that doesn’t mean pairings don’t exist! One of our favourite Italian traditions to follow is the art of the aperitivo, which intends to awaken the appetite before your meal by enjoying a cocktail paired with Italian antipasti like cured meats and cheeses or fried bites like Suppli, lightly fried risotto balls, which we have on the menu at La Piazza.
Tell us more about how you created the negroni cocktail kit or a negroni cocktail to-go available at Vino e Birra To-Go section at Eataly?
Over the course of the pandemic, we were faced with the challenge of figuring out how our guests wanted to enjoy their favourite cocktails at home, when they were more used to sipping cocktails at their local bar. We knew our guests were already ordering in authentic Italian meals from our restaurants through food delivery, so we figured what better way to complete the Eataly experience at home than with Negroni cocktail kits and smaller cocktails to-go that would give them all the necessary ingredients and the recipe to make the classic from their own kitchen. We saw such an appetite for them that we’ve kept them on as an offering for takeout from our Vino e Birra To-Go ever since, even experimenting with flavours throughout the years to include rotating varieties like Negroni Bianco and Negroni Fragola, or Strawberry Negroni.
What does the “Big Smoke” cocktail have to do with a negroni?
When planning the beverage menu at Trattoria Milano, our Milanese-inspired restaurant, we saw the perfect opportunity to really dive deep into the Negroni. After some experimentation, and a lot of taste testing, we created nearly a dozen different takes all with their own flavour profiles, including my favourite, The Big Smoke. A good beverage program is crafted based off of your guests’ palates, and where you can create opportunities to help them expand it. However, every once in a while, we’ll add drinks onto the list that include some of our favourite ingredients in the hopes of sharing the flavours we love with our guests.
With The Big Smoke, we keep some of the same elements of Negroni but switch up the spirits for this smokey drink. We use Laguvulin Scotch, and while I love it and have a strong respect the process that goes into producing it, I find that peaty Scotch on its own can be intimidating to people who haven’t tried it before because of its intensity and smokey flavour. We’ve made it more approachable by combining with bitter Campari and the sweet vermouth for a uniquely balanced cocktail that has turned out to be one of our best sellers .
The amazing thing about Negroni Week is that it centres on giving back to charity by celebrating an iconic drink that’s known around the world. This years charity is Slow Food. There are plenty of incredibly talented bartenders across the city that I know will take this opportunity to create something fun and unique, so don’t miss out on trying their creations, and ours, while knowing every sip gives back.