Drink for a good cause during Negroni Week

Symphony Loo
Symphony LooPHOTOS: CEDRIC VROLANT, REGENT SINGAPORE

More than 30 bars will be giving the cocktail a twist and donating part of sales proceeds to charity

At its most unadulterated, the classic negroni is made with equal parts sweet vermouth, gin and Campari (the bitter Italian liqueur) and garnished with a twist of orange peel.

But at this year's Negroni Week, which runs from Monday to June 12, the stirred-down cocktail will be reimagined with new flavour profiles, alcohol components and interesting twists at more than 30 bars.

Some, such as Manhattan at Regent Singapore, are going with unexpected flavours such as kimchiinfused Campari, producing a negroni with a strong savoury hit.

Others, such as Neon Pigeon in Keong Saik Road, are replacing the gin component completely. The izakaya is using sake and umeshu, offering a delicate take on the typically bitter cocktail.

For each negroni sold in participating bars, a portion of the sales proceeds will be donated to a charity of their choice. The amount donated per drink will vary from $1 to $4. Charities that will benefit include The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund, Action for Singapore Dogs and the Nepal Survivors Fund.

Last year's edition of Negroni Week - the first time it was held here - saw only seven bars participating and about $700 raised. This year, co-organiser Campari hopes to raise $4,000, especially with more than four times as many bars on board.

For many bartenders, the negroni is their go-to cocktail on days off or the weekend. Ms Symphony Loo, head bartender at Neon Pigeon, considers it her favourite tipple and wants to encourage more people to order it the next time they go to a bar.

The 24-year-old, who considers her Japanese-influenced take an easier version to drink, says: "You either hate it or love it, but I wanted to make something easy for people to drink, so they can slowly learn to love the negroni." Neon Pigeon is participating in Negroni Week for the first time.

Sugarhall in Amoy Street, also a new participant, will host a guest bartender shift from 7pm to midnight on Wednesday, featuring the likes of its senior bartender Stuart Danker alongside Ms Loo, The Cufflink Club's Andrew Goodall and The Secret Mermaid's Kelly D'Cruz.

They will each be making their signature Negroni Week cocktail and a dollar from every negroni will go to Sugarhall's charity of choice, Community Chest.

The Italian cocktail was said to have been invented in Florence in the early 20th century, when Count Camillo Negroni ordered a classic Americano cocktail (Campari, sweet vermouth and club soda), but asked to replace the soda with gin.

Negroni Week was launched in 2013 by American liquor magazine Imbibe to celebrate the iconic drink and raise money for charitable causes. More than 3,500 establishments around the world participated in last year's event, raising more than US$320,000 (S$440,000) for charitable causes.


TEARED NEGRONI

Neon Pigeon's Japanese-influenced take on the negroni features rosemary, umeshu as well as shiso and pineapple-infused sake to replace the gin component.

The sweeter ume plum and pineapple flavours provide a tropical taste that head bartender Symphony Loo says balances the bitterness of the rosemary.

Campari and Mancino Rosso Amaranto vermouth are stirred in before it is topped up with prosecco. Rosemary smoke is piped into the tear-shaped glassware and stoppered before the drink is served.

Ms Loo, 24, says she has never had a bad negroni, but hopes people will take to her version since it was made "easier to drink".

Order it: Teared Negroni at $20++; $1++ from the sale of every negroni goes to the Nepal Survivors Fund, which provides families in isolated earthquake-damaged villages with basic shelter, hygienic supplies and food Where: Neon Pigeon, 1 Keong Saik Road Open: 6pm to midnight (Monday to Saturday)


RAVEN NEGRONI

In his take on the negroni, Mr Adam Bursik (left), head bartender at The Library, combines two drinks that people in Singapore love - classic cocktails and coffee.

This darker version substitutes gin with vodka that is cold-brewed with coffee. Other than a dash of chocolate bitters, all other ingredients are standard negroni components as Mr Bursik does not want to mess with the proportions of the classic cocktail too much.

"Most people like the negroni the way it is," he says.

The drink is topped with a chocolate disc (right) that has ground coffee and cardamom bits in it.

Order it: Raven negroni at $23++; $2 from the sale of every negroni goes to Eden School for children with autism Where: The Library, 47 Keong Saik Road Open: 6pm to 1am (Monday to Saturday)


PICANTE NEGRONI

This is a spicy take on the typically bitter and sweet cocktail. The spiciness comes from red capsicum that is sous vide and infused into the house gin.

The Cufflink Club's head bartender Andrew Goodall (left) says: "Instead of trying to add spice with chilli flakes or something that can be very harsh, capsicum brings a bit of spice as well as a natural sweetness."

In keeping with the ethos of the bar's charity of choice, The Food Bank Singapore, Mr Goodall also looked into ways of not wasting any part of the capsicum. For instance, instead of throwing away the gin-infused bits of julienned capsicum strips, he dehydrates and serves them as a bar snack.

Order it: Picante Negroni at $24++; $4 from the sale of every negroni goes to The Food Bank Singapore, which distributes food to the needy Where: The Cufflink Club, 6 Jiak Chuan Road Open: 5pm to 1am (Monday to Thursday), 5pm to 2am (Friday), 6pm to 2am (Saturday)


CONQUISTADOR'S NEGRONI

Bartender Rhyse Borland (left) of Gibson says he wanted a negroni "with a bit more oomph and pizzazz".

Combining Mexican, Spanish and Italian influences, his take on the classic packs a punch with mezcal fat-washed with Iberico ham (right). Fat-washing is the process of infusing the flavour of a certain fat with a spirit.

A drop of Memphis BBQ bitters adds a smokey, hot-sauce flavour profile to the cocktail.

Order it: Conquistador's Negroni at $23++; $1 from the sale of every negroni goes to Community Chest Where: Gibson, 20 Bukit Pasoh Road, 2nd floor Open: 5pm to midnight (Monday to Saturday)


INGANNO ORALE

Smoke & Mirrors bartender Byron Tan's (left) cheeky take on the classic has a lollipop (right) instead of an orange peel as a garnish. In his words, it can be sucked, licked and even dipped into the cocktail.

But it still has a practical purpose. "When you lick it, then drink, the flavour of the cocktail will change," the 27-year-old says.

He came up with the recipe for the salted citrus lollipopfrom scratch, after multiple trials and failures. He says a limited number of the cocktail will be available each day.

The burnt caramel flavour of the sweet complements the trademark bitterness from the Campari and candy floss notes from the Amaro Montenegro, an Italian herbal liqueur.

Smoke & Mirrors is donating to Action for Singapore Dogs. Mr Tan, who used to have a dog, says: "It's a lot of work, but I do this because I love dogs ."

Order it: Inganno Orale at $20++; $1++ from the sale of every negroni goes to Action for Singapore Dogs, which rescues, fosters and finds new homes for stray and abandoned dogs Where: Smoke & Mirrors, 1 St Andrew's Road, National Gallery Singapore, 06-01 Open: Noon to 12.30am (Sunday to Thursday), noon to 2am (Friday to Saturday)


EASY SUNSET

For his take on the white negroni, Potato Head Folk's head bartender Mohammad Irwan (left) uses vermouth infused with pineapple consomme that takes six hours to prepare.

Hand-blended pineapples are simmered for an hour before spices are added. After simmering again, agar agar powder is added before further simmering, after which the pot is cooled in an ice bath. The curd that forms is squeezed and removed and the syrup is fine-strained for another three hours.

Mr Irwan's take on the negroni is different from the rest of the pack, with the fruity, tropical flavours working unexpectedly well.

Considering the amount of work that goes into the cocktail, he says: "In Singapore, it's all about value, right? You're paying $23 to $25 for a drink, so you have to have a good drink."

Order it: Easy Sunset at $23++; $1 from the sale of every negroni goes to The Bayou Blue Foundation, a global organisation that helps provide counselling and financial support to parents and children with life-threatening illnesses Where: Potato Head Folk, 36 Keong Saik Road, Studio 1939 & The Rooftop Open: 5pm to midnight daily


KIMCHI NEGRONI AND MORE

Manhattan will offer five takes on the negroni, including the Kimchi Negroni and Sbagliato Rosa (right).

The Kimchi Negroni uses Campari that has been infused with homemade kimchi for about a month. It was created by South Korea-born Norwegian mixologist Monica Berg, who did a series of guest shifts in Manhattan in April as part of its second anniversary celebrations.

The cocktail is savoury and tangy and rounded off by Mancino Rosso, an artisanal vermouth. Instead of gin, aquavit, a traditional Scandinavian spirit flavoured with botanicals, is used.

Manhattan bartender Cedric Mendoza (left), 26, acknowledges that no one puts kimchi in a cocktail because of its strong flavour. "But by ageing it, we found that it matured and the flavour became subtle."

He says the bar infused a 13-litre barrel of Campari with kimchi in its rickhouse.

Also try the Sbagliato Rosa. Sbagliato means mistake in Italian, since the cocktail was invented by mistake when a bartender added sparkling wine instead of gin to the standard negroni recipe. The picture-perfect drink, also made with St Germain elderflower liqueur and topped with champagne, gets its distinct hue from Cocchi Aperitivo Americano, an Italian aperitif wine.

Order it: Kimchi negroni, Sbagliato Rosa, Camillo Sour, Dirty Negroni and Blackwood Negroni at $24++; $1 from the sale of every negroni goes to Run For Hope, an annual run by Four Seasons Hotel Singapore, Regent Singapore and the National Cancer Centre Singapore to raise awareness and support for cancer research Where: Manhattan, 1 Cuscaden Road, Regent Singapore Open: 5pm to 1am daily, 11.30am to 3.30pm (cocktail brunch on Sunday)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 03, 2016, with the headline 'Drink for a good cause'. Print Edition | Subscribe