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Imbibe Magazine's Negroni Week Brings Insanely Creative Spins on the Cocktail Classic

Bartenders across the country (and around the world) push the drink's boundaries, and you can taste the results all week from June 1 through June 7.

In 2013, Imbibe Magazine came up with an on-the-fly idea: Let's celebrate the Negroni cocktail by encouraging bar owners and restaurateurs across the country to dream up different twists on the classic cocktail, run those specials for a week, and when the week was up, have each joint donate a portion of their Negroni proceeds to the charity of their choice.

That year, a couple hundred restaurants and bars signed on, making the inaugural (and soon-to-be annual) fundraiser a modest success. But last year, Negroni Week exploded, with more than 1,300 restaurants and bars participating and collectively raising more than $120,000 in donor cash.

This year, it's even bigger. More than 1,600 restaurants and bars have signed up  — from as far away as Germany, Thailand and Lebanon — and Negroni Week is still two weeks away, which means even more can come on board by the time it kicks off June 1. Of course, with Imbibe headquartered here in town, and with Portland a hotbed of bartending talent, there's no better place to dive into Negroni Week than right here at home.

Negroni Week kicks off on Monday, June 1 and lasts until Sunday, June 7. Below is just a taste of the local lineup of about 50 area bars. Check the website for the full list of participants and to see which charity they've chosen. And each time you raise a glass you'll be doing your part to help the bar win Campari's $10,000 prize, which goes to the charity chosen by the bar or restaurant that raises the most money during Negroni Week.

AVA GENE'S — Bar manager Douglas Derrick is swapping out gin for Japanese whiskey and fortified Italian wine. And while he's sticking with Campari, he's choosing to dehydrate it and grind it into orange dust for a spicy, citrusy rim.

INTERURBAN — Bartender Jeff Seymour taps into every bartender's favorite Negroni ingredients—namely Beefeater gin—but he's mixing things up by stirring his version up with Curaçao and the poblano chile-driven Ancho Reyes liqueur.

KACHKA — For his version called the Russkiy Les, bartender-owner Israel Morales is sticking with vermouth, but he's twisting things up by stirring it with Becherovka and creme de violette, and finishing it off with five drops of pine extract.

MULTNOMAH WHISKEY LIBRARY — The Negroni is lead bartender Michael Lorberbaum's all-time favorite classic cocktail, but that hasn't stopped him from toying with it this year. Yes, he uses gin, but only as a rinse. Not surprisingly, he leans hard on Scotch (12-year-old blended Chivas Regal), which he stirs with amaro and amontillado sherry for something he calls The Loophole.

NOSTRANA — Nostrana's legendary Negroni of the Month program was a big inspiration for Negroni Week, so a visit here is a must. Bar manager Peter Carpenter will be featuring "The Quintessential Negroni" made with Beefeater, Campari and Cinzano on the rocks. In addition, he'll mix up the June Negroni of the Month created by Chicago bartender Charles Joly. "The Apposta" combines Beefeater 24, Aperol, Punt e Mes, lemon juice, and San Pelegrino pompelmo soda, garnished with a thyme sprig.

OSO MARKET + BAR Colin and Holly Howard are giving their Negroni a Spanish flair. Their Negroni Española replaces the drink's traditional Campari with Cappelletti and mixes that and the gin with Spanish vermouth and a pinch of chili powder.

RACION — Bartender David Sigal is toying with the drink by adding a couple dashes of orange bitters and tying the whole thing together with a tarragon-infused syrup he's made from a collaborative farmhouse ale courtesy of Fort George and The Commons breweries.

RUM CLUB — Bartender Emily Mistell is shaking hers with tonic syrup, grapefruit soda and a pinch of pink sea salt and naming it the Lawn Dart.

WATSON HALL, THE AMERICAN BRAT HAUS — If you live in (or find yourself in) Beaverton during the first week of June and just want to keep it simple, this DeCarli Restaurant spinoff is doing a straight up Negroni with nothing but Campari, gin (New Amsterdam) and vermouth (Imbue's bittersweet version).

WHEY BARAndrew Moore at Whey Bar is also giving his Negroni a Spanish tinge by swapping out the drink's traditional sweet vermouth and replacing it with Spanish Sherry.