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 returns every summer, challenging 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.”
Negroni Week created its donation model to make an even greater impact. Participating locations worldwide 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 is 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.
Highlights from Negroni Week 2018:
Here are some of the Portland spots that offered standout spins on the negroni in 2018, along with the nonprofits they supported:
Altabira City Tavern
- The drink: The Oldtown Chinatown Negroni crafted by Altabira City Tavern bar manager Bonny Macdonald replaced gin with tea-infused rye whiskey and adds Campari and sweet vermouth; served up.
- The charity: Outside In
- The drink: The Bamboo Negroni at Bamboo Sushi was comprised of Saint George Terroir gin, Campari, Cappelletti, pisco, Interrobang vermouth, rose water and a smoked lemongrass ice cube; served with a candied lemongrass stalk.
- The charity: Surfrider Foundation
- The drink: La Fleur von Europa at Lechon was made with Aria Portland dry gin, Campari, Lillet Blanc, Aperol and three dashes of Underberg; stirred, and served up in a coupe with a garnish of star anise floating on a rose petal.
- The charity: Inspire Artistic Minds
Mediterranean Exploration Company
- The drink: The Skin Contact Negroni at Mediterranean Exploration Company features Tanqueray gin, house-made orange wine and sherry-based vermouth, Campari and orange oil.
- The charity: CORE
Negroni Week: The plan
With so many cocktails to choose from, Negroni Week in Portland can 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 — and either way, it’s for a good cause.