It’s an acquired taste; a challenging flavor profile; you will like it the third time you’ve tried it. Caveats like these are often prefixes when discussing the Negroni. The bitter, herbaceous cocktail is often called a “serious drinkers drink,” but despite its sharp bite the Negroni, which combines equal parts Campari, vermouth and gin, manages to be a ubiquitous figure on Bangkok cocktail menus.
At a recent launch party for Red Sky Bangkok’s new Negroni-themed bar atop Centara Grand, BK Magazine caught up with Campari to discuss what gives the drink staying power on the city’s cocktail menus.
MD of Partnership Markets Asia, Campari
BK: The popularity of the Negroni in Bangkok seems to have really taken off after the launch of Negroni week in 2013. What do you attribute to the growth of the event and Campari alongside it?
Hill: Negroni Week is quite an interesting partnership with Imbibe as it not only celebrates the iconic cocktail and its many creative renditions. With the support of thousands of participating bars worldwide, the annual week has also led to a deepening of relationships between Campari and the larger bar industry. The Negroni is known as the “Bartender’s handshake”, but quickly became the #1 World’s Best-Selling Classic Cocktails in 2022, an annual list put together by Drinks International. Bartenders are becoming stars in their own right especially thanks to social media —as they should be—and the way Asia has embraced it has been amazing. Some of the best bars that I have been to in Asia, they love making their own Negronis and putting their own spin on it—using some really random off the shelf gin, or aging a Negroni for two years, that kind of creative side. A Negroni provides a nice canvas for these bartenders to work their craft. The charitable aspect of Negroni Week is a big factor as well. I believe in the last 10 years we have raised four million dollars (US) globally, and that’s bars signing up to be a part of it.
BK: The drink has incredible staying power on cocktail menus around the world—it’s almost impossible to find a menu in town without one. What makes the drink so successful despite its challenging flavor profile?
Hill: I think it is the simplicity of how balanced the drink is. Equal ratios of Campari, vermouth, gin and then finished with the orange garnish. Again, if you think and consider the flavor profile of a Negroni it is probably not the most approachable, especially when you first try it. It is an acquired taste but the addition of the orange helps mellow things out. Obviously it has been very driven by Italian cuisine. I've been in Asia 20 years now, and I just see more and more Italian influence in every major city I visit. We’ve also noticed that most drinkers tend to appreciate a Negroni as they move into their last 20s, progressing from simpler to more complex flavor profiles. Just generally, the interest in the cocktail culture has been growing massively throughout Asia and that helps to elevate the drink as well.
BK: While the classic Negroni is the big one that most folks know about, what are some Negroni variations that you have tried that really stood out to you?
Hill: I recently had a “snow-groni”, which was a Negroni with shaved ice on top. I was in Hong Kong a few months ago, and they made me a mezcal Negroni, that was amazing as well. The creativity in the bar industry never fails to surprise me. With fresh takes and innovative twists year after year. Having all these competitions in other cities is really interesting, because it is slowly but surely raising the overall quality of the bar experience.