Thursday, March 12, 2020

Negroni Social 2019

For the last five years I've been getting annual invites to Portland's Negroni Social. As someone on the more socially awkward end of the scale, at least when it comes to strangers, I've previously given it a pass. But since my partner was interesting in going last year, I decided to take the plunge.

2019 marks the centennial anniversary of the date when the Negroni is claimed to have been invented by the eponymous Count who wanted something stiffer than an Americano. Unsurprisingly Campari was very interested in making sure everyone marked the occasion to open their annual Negroni Week charity event.

The location was on Portland's inner east side, a still industrial neighborhood that folks may recognize as the home of New Deal distillery.While the space was excellent and had some nice leftover industrial equipment for atmosphere (see: right), I will admit that it felt a little off to be attending an industry party set up like a major awards show with a red carpet and photographer knowing the number of folks sleeping rough within a few hundred meters. Yes, it was for charity, but that didn't especially ease my discomfort.

With that said, the drinks were almost universally excellent. Everyone attending started off with an amphora-aged Negroni. Yes, they made up large batches of negronis, put them in clay vessels, and then buried them in the ground for two months. Because why not? While good, they were somewhat unremarkable in comparison to everything else on offer.

Rule of Three from Sarah Briggs (1 oz Campari, 1 oz verjus, 0.5 oz Nardin Acqua di Cedro, 0.25 oz Laird's Straight Apple Brandy, 0.25 oz Piscologia, 3 drops saline) - very floral nose with balanced brandy notes, sip begins sweet/sour with Campari bitterness at the end. Refreshingly tart summer drink.

Pruno Magli from Jessica Braasch (1 oz alderwood smoked Campari, 0.75 oz prune liqueur, 0.75 oz cognac, 0.5 oz dry vermouth) - fairly subdued aroma, most orange peel. Sip begins a little limply, but unfolds waves of dark fruit, smoke, and bitterness. Very suited to its month in the PNW.

Fancy Footwork from Judson Winquist (0.75 oz calvados, 0.75 oz Campari, 0.5 oz Averna, 1 oz strawberry-rhubarb syrup, 1.5 oz tonic) - orange and pepper from the garnishes with a bit of Campari on the nose. Sip begins with strong apple notes, fading into orange notes and complex bitterness with a bit of apple sweetness. Peppery finish. Another refreshing summer sipper.

Thelma Taylor from Kyle Trisler (1 oz Campari, 0.5 oz sloe gin, 0.5 oz gin, 0.75 oz sweet vermouth, 0.5 oz Amaro Abano, 1/4 tsp cocoa powder) - complex bitter nose with some fruitiness from the slow gin. Bittersweet sip with balanced gin and sloe, fades into complex bitterness from the gin, amaro, and cocoa. Moderate weight finish.

It's unsurprising that all of the drinks I tried were so good given that the event was pulling in talent from many of Portland's best cocktail bars. All showed a lot of creativity within the Negroni mold. The one part I hadn't full contended with was just how much alcohol was going to be served. Under the circumstances I feel like it might have been better for them to be making half size or smaller drinks so that guests could sample a good range without getting absolutely blitzed.

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