It began with a simple email to a few Los Angeles bartenders. "Hey you all, anyone interested in bringing Negroni Week to L.A.?" Within an hour, barkeeps citywide were hopping on board, linking in fellow bartenders, and making plans for their own personal negroni variations. If you hang out in bars often enough, you'll quickly realize that the negroni -- composed of gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth -- is a bartender's darling, beloved for its distinct bittersweet flavor. For many, this Italian sipper is an acquired taste, but for the converted, it's the ideal cocktail.
Negroni Week is the brainchild of Imbibe magazine, whose editors "officially" named May 27 through June 3 as the celebratory time frame in Portland (where Imbibe is based), and has encouraged bars across the country to serve up the classic Campari-based cocktail, then donate $1 to the cause of their choice.
L.A. bartenders are a charitable lot, often raising money at a moment's notice, as they did after the recent Boston tragedy. Once again the Angeleno gang has stepped up, assembling a remarkable cross section of bars in the city environs and beyond. Along with the bars, both Beefeater/Plymouth and Aviation gins are sponsoring some venues.
Los Angeles Negroni Week started on Monday night with Trevor Easter, Beefeater/Plymouth gin's brand ambassador and the man behind the San Francisco - L.A. effort, stirring up a salted Beefeater negroni at Eveleigh. Other selections include riffs on the classic including the spring fresh and very local Valencia marmalade negroni at El Cid, featuring Laura Ann's Jams Hollywood marmalade and the inventive spiked summer sbagliato with Aviation gin, peach-infused Floc de Gascogne, Suze and prosecco.
Below is a round-up of the participating bars, their offerings and the charities to which they are donating. Unless otherwise specified, the locales are participating all week.
320 Main: classic negroni and Red-Bellied Sapsucker; Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund.
Cole's Red Car Bar: classic negroni; Oklahoma Tornado Relief; Saturday June 1, 11 a.m. - 2 a.m.
The Corner Door: Oklahoma Tornado Relief.
El Cid: Valencia marmalade negroni; Oklahoma Tornado Relief/LA Rock Camp for Girls; May 28 - June 3.
Eveleigh: salted Beefeater negroni; Oklahoma Tornado Relief; Monday May 27.
Goldie's: negroni sour with rhubarb and lemon; Oklahoma Tornado Relief.
Harvard & Stone: strawberry-infused Campari and Dolin blanc; LA Food Bank.
Hemingway's: classic negroni; LA KIPP Charter School; Friday, May 31.
Littlefork: negroni di Nero; Share Our Strength.
Son of a Gun: spiked summer sbagliato; Alex's Lemonade Stand.
The Spare Room: maritime negroni; Baby2Baby.
If you've never tried a negroni, this is the week to venture out and sample both classic and exotic Campari-centric cocktails. If you are already a negroni lover, cin cin! Raise a glass and drink to a good cause.
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Lesley blogs at 12 Bottle Bar, tweets at @12BottleBar and is the author of the book "Gin: A Global History." Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.