Cocktails for charity: Singapore bars take on Negroni Week

ASHISH SHARMA, 29, Assistant bar manager at Manhattan, Regent Singapore -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
ASHISH SHARMA, 29, Assistant bar manager at Manhattan, Regent Singapore -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
NAZ ARJUNA, 32, Head bartender at Bitters & Love -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
NAZ ARJUNA, 32, Head bartender at Bitters & Love -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
STEVE LEONG, 28, Head bartender at Tess Bar & Kitchen -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
STEVE LEONG, 28, Head bartender at Tess Bar & Kitchen -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
SAM WONG, 30, Owner of Ah Sam Cold Drink Stall -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
SAM WONG, 30, Owner of Ah Sam Cold Drink Stall -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
KNUT RANDHEM, 29, Regional head mixologist at Ku De Ta Singapore -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
KNUT RANDHEM, 29, Regional head mixologist at Ku De Ta Singapore -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
(Clockwise from top left) Bartenders Sam Wong, Ashish Sharma, Steve Leong, Naz Arjuna and Knut Randhem will serve special renditions of the classic negroni during Negroni Week from Monday to June 7. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
(Clockwise from top left) Bartenders Sam Wong, Ashish Sharma, Steve Leong, Naz Arjuna and Knut Randhem will serve special renditions of the classic negroni during Negroni Week from Monday to June 7. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

At least six bars here are celebrating Negroni Week with a portion of sales from the drink or related products going to charity

Toast to a good cause with the classic negroni cocktail as bars in Singapore celebrate international Negroni Week from Monday.

It is the first time that Singapore is taking part in this global initiative, which sees participating bars and restaurants donating a portion of sales from negroni cocktails or related products to a charity of their choice.

From Monday to June 7, head bartenders of at least six bars here - including The Secret Mermaid in Collyer Quay, Bitters & Love in Telok Ayer Street, Ah Sam Cold Drink Stall in Boat Quay, Manhattan bar at the Regent Singapore, Ku De Ta Singapore in Marina Bay Sands and Tess Bar & Kitchen in Seah Street - will serve special renditions of the spirit-forward drink.

The classic negroni, often a bartender's drink of choice, is a stirred cocktail made with equal parts gin, vermouth and Campari - Italy's iconic red bitter - and garnished with orange peel.

It is said that the drink was invented in Florence, Italy, in 1919, when Count Camillo Negroni ordered a classic Americano cocktail (Campari, sweet vermouth and club soda), but asked to replace the club soda with gin.

Negroni Week was first launched in 2013 by influential American liquor magazine Imbibe, to celebrate the iconic drink and raise money for charitable causes.

This year, Imbibe has teamed up with Campari to hold the event.

Last year, more than 1,300 bars, restaurants and eateries in 18 countries - including Romania, Australia, Sweden and China - took part in Negroni Week. They collectively raised more than US$120,000 (S$162,000) for charitable causes.

melk@sph.com.sg


Refreshing bitterness

KNUT RANDHEM, 29

Regional head mixologist at Ku De Ta Singapore

The negroni cocktail was one of the first cocktails Mr Randhem learnt to make when he started bartending 12 years ago.

"It's a straightforward drink which doesn't require a lot of time to make. It's my go-to drink when I don't know what to order... it's a safe bet," he says.

For his rendition, he has made the drink stronger and more refreshing with the addition of cherry brandy and Fernet-Branca, a type of bitter herbal liqueur. The amount of gin used is also doubled.

"I still use Campari and sweet vermouth, but I feel my version adds a little refreshing bitterness... rather than tasting the dryness of the Campari," he says.

For those not used to the taste of the negroni, he recommends the cocktail from which the negroni takes its inspiration, the Americano.

But he adds: "It's crucial to like Campari because it's what gives the drink its potency and bitterness. If you don't like it, you won't like the drink."

Order it: Ku De Ta Negroni and classic negroni at $24++; 10 per cent of all negroni sales goes to Unicef Nepal

Where: Ku De Ta Singapore, Marina Bay Sands SkyPark, 1 Bayfront Avenue

Open: From noon till late daily


Cheng tng flavours

SAM WONG, 30

Owner of Ah Sam Cold Drink Stall

He is known in the bar scene for drawing inspiration from local culture and food when creating his cocktails.

So it is not surprising that his version of the negroni is inspired by the traditional Chinese dessert, cheng tng.

He incorporates Asian flavours into the cocktail by mixing Campari, Pu'er tea-infused gin and sweet vermouth that has been cooked with dried and fresh longans. The ingredients are poured from shaker to glass using a "throwing" technique, instead of being stirred together.

For those who are not used to the bittersweet taste of the negroni, Mr Wong recommends the Summer Negroni cocktail instead. It uses Cocchi Americano, gin and Aperol instead of Campari.

"It would be a more sprightly and sweet blend compared to the classic negroni," he says.

Order it: Special negroni and classic negroni at $20+; $1 from the sale of every negroni cocktail goes to Fei Yue Community Services

Where: 60A Boat Quay

Open: 6pm to midnight (Monday to Thursday), 6pm to 2am (Friday and Saturday), closed on Sunday


Pandan aroma

STEVE LEONG, 28

Head bartender at Tess Bar & Kitchen

He gives the classic negroni a local spin with the use of pandan leaves and almonds.

The two ingredients are infused in Cinzano Rosso vermouth using the sous-vide technique. He then mixes the vermouth with Campari and Bankes gin.

"The pandan is aromatic and the almond gives it a nutty and crisp flavour which I believe can attract more people to drink the negroni," he says.

The idea of adding almonds came from his eating coconut ice cream in Bangkok, where sellers sprinkle chopped almonds on top. He was also inspired by his friend, Potato Head Folk bartender Mohammad Irwan, who often uses pandan leaves in many of his cocktails.

Order it: Special negroni at $16++ and classic negroni from $18++, depending on the type of gin used; $1 from the sale of every negroni cocktail goes to The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund

Where: 38 Seah Street

Open: 11.30 to 1am (Monday to Thursday), 11.30 to 2am (Friday), 4.30pm to 2am (Saturday), closed on Sunday


Star spices

NAZ ARJUNA, 32

Head bartender at Bitters & Love

He believes the key ingredient in the classic negroni is Campari.

"You can change the gin, vermouth and even the garnish, but if Campari is missing, the whole profile of the negroni will be compromised," he says.

For his version, he mixes equal parts of vermouth, which has been spiced with cardamom, cloves, star anise and cinnamon for a more "Asian flavour"; with Geranium gin and Campari.

For drinkers who have never tried the negroni and may not be used to the taste, he also recommends another rendition similar to a "classic sourstyle cocktail": it uses lime, lemon, sugar, egg white and angostura bitters and is shaken and strained.

Order it: Special negroni at $24 nett and classic negroni from $24 nett, depending on the type of gin used; $1 from the sale of every negroni cocktail goes to Save Our Street Dogs

Where:118 Telok Ayer Street

Open: 6pm to midnight (Monday to Thursday), 6pm to 2am (Friday and Saturday), closed on Sunday


Barrel-aged

ASHISH SHARMA, 29

Assistant bar manager at Manhattan, Regent Singapore

For Negroni Week, Manhattan bar will be offering six variations of the classic negroni.

A must-try is its solera-aged negroni, given the bar's reputation for barrel-ageing cocktails and spirits.

The cocktail - a blend of gins, Campari, Gran Classico bitter and Mancino vermouth - is aged for at least six weeks in the bar's rickhouse using the solera-ageing method, developed by the Spanish and Portuguese to ensure a constant average age for sherry and port.

Mr Sharma says guests "will be able to savour a sophisticated blend of young and old flavours that brings depth, character, complexity and roundness into their glass".

Order it: Solera-aged negroni at $25++, classic negroni at $23++ and regular aged negroni cocktails at $25++; $2 from the sale of every negroni cocktail goes to Run For Hope, an annual run organised by Four Seasons Hotel Singapore, Regent Singapore and the National Cancer Centre Singapore to raise awareness and support for cancer research

Where: Manhattan bar, Regent Singapore, 1 Cuscaden Road

Open: 5pm to 1am daily, 11.30am to 3.30pm for cocktail brunch on Sunday