What’s more fun than bar-crawling through Portland on a late-spring afternoon? Knowing that every sip is helping a worthy cause. Every June, bars and restaurants around the city (and the world) join forces for Negroni Week. This Portland-born fundraising event challenges bartenders across the globe to present their best twists on the classic three-ingredient cocktail. Part of the proceeds from each negroni purchased benefit 40 charities, including Portland’s Outside In and Oregon Food Bank.
Negroni: The drink
Dating back to early 1900s Italy, the negroni is composed of only three ingredients: gin, Campari and sweet vermouth. It’s a bittersweet beverage with pungent orange-peel flavor that, when in the hands of imaginative bartenders, can yield limitless variety. In previous years, Portland’s bartenders have stretched those limits, crafting incredible offerings. Bit House Saloon helped patrons beat the heat with frozen “negronicicles” made with gin, Aperol and Dolin Blanc. Richmond Bar explored the negroni’s smoky depths by adding mescal. Imperial served up a refreshing spritz featuring gin, strawberry-infused Bonal Gentiane Quina, honeyed Campari and Spanish sparkling wine.
Negroni Week: The event
Negroni Week was founded in 2013 by Portland-based “liquid culture” magazine Imbibe and spirits giant Campari America. It has since expanded to more than 6,000 participating bars and restaurants throughout North America, Europe and Australia. In its first four years, the event raised $900,000 for thousands of charities around the world.
“The negroni has always been one of our favorite cocktails here at Imbibe,” explains Karen Foley, Imbibe’s publisher. “When we launched Negroni Week back in 2013, the cocktail was just starting to experience a resurgence, so we thought this would be a fun way to expand that momentum. It’s been amazing to see enthusiasts and bartenders around the world rally behind this cocktail as a way to support causes that are meaningful to them.”
In 2017, Negroni Week changed its donation model to make an even greater impact. Participating locations worldwide will select their beneficiaries from a list of 40 high-impact groups. These include Portland organizations like Mercy Corps, Outside In and Oregon Food Bank. (Participants are also invited to make an up-front donation on top of their negroni sales contribution.) This means more money will be funneled from thousands of bars and restaurants all over the world to deserving nonprofits. All you have to do to support this philanthropic endeavor is show up and drink.
Negroni Week: 2017 highlights
Here are some of the Portland spots offering standout spins on the negroni this year, along with the nonprofits they’re supporting:
- The drink: Questions & Answers, the offering from eclectic and acclaimed Aviary, contains Gossling’s Black Seal Rum, Braulio and two locally made, organic vermouths by Interrobang.
- The charity: Water for People
Bar Casa Vale
- The drink: Bar Casa Vale — named 2017 Bar of the Year by Willamette Week — offers a simple variation based on the classic ratios of the negroni but featuring the deeper notes of cynar in place of gin.
- The charity: Banco de Alimentos
- The drink: The Coffee Cascara Negroni from innovative coffee shop Either/Or is crafted just like a traditional Negroni, with equal parts gin, Campari and vermouth — but all alcohol-free and coffee-based.
- The charity: Outside In
- The drink: With its “Stigg~roni,” Tiki-cult darling Hale Pele switches out gin for Plantation Pineapple Stiggens’ Fancy Rum, adding a tropical flair.
- The charity: Oregon Food Bank
Negroni Week: The plan
With so many cocktails to choose from, Negroni Week in Portland may seem a bit daunting. (Sampling from over 60 varieties would burn out even the most die-hard negroni lover). Fortunately, negroniweek.com lists participating bars and restaurants along with their charities and featured negronis.
Use Negroni Week’s interactive map to tour new bars around Portland or visit old favorites. Drink to support a specific charity or to tantalize your taste buds — either way, it’s for a good cause.