Young and Hungry

Cocktail Guess: “Make Me Something with Campari”

Where: Café Saint-Ex, 1847 14th St. NW

Bartender Response: “A Campari and soda?” We pressed for something more creative.

What We Got: A Negroni made with gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari, garnished with a cherry and orange slice

Price: $9.09

How It Tasted: Surprisingly heavy on gin

Improv Points (1-5): 3. A Negroni is a standard Campari cocktail, but this concoction was half gin, instead of the usual third. A Negroni is no place to revive the 18th century Gin Craze.


Where: Bourbon, 2321 18th St. NW

Bartender Response: “Yeah, sure.”

What We Got: Broker’s gin, Cointreau, Campari, and orange bitters served up with an orange peel

Price: $10

How It Tasted: This drink had a megadose of citrus, but that didn’t detract from the herbal notes in the gin and Campari.

Improv Points (1-5): 4. This is quite close to a classic Negroni, but all that orange made for something fresh and unusual. And we were glad our bartender didn’t shy away from a double dose of bitters.


Where: Elisir, 427 11th St. NW

Bartender Response: “A Negroni?” When pressed for something else, he responded, “I’m not too familiar with Campari drinks.”

What We Got: A Negroni made with gin, sweet vermouth, Campari, a cherry, and a sliver of orange peel

Price: $11

How It Tasted:  Slightly fruitier than the Saint-Ex version. Placing the orange peel in the glass enhanced the citric fragrance that complements a Campari’s subtly bitter aftertaste.

Improv Points (1-5): 3. Mixing equal parts gin, vermouth, and Campari is the right combination. Even though it’s a proper Negroni, it’s still yet another Negroni.

  • monsterriffs

    try a Boulevardier next time; basically a negroni but with bourbon substituted for the gin.

  • Try Harder

    This is one of the worst concepts for a column. Every week you are disappointed that people can't play your little game. It's horrible to do to bartenders, and it makes for boring and annoying reading. You should come up with something more interesting.

  • KC

    Horrible to do to bartenders? Oh brother. Especially at the places she goes, impromptu riffing on particular liquors and flavors ought to be expected and a point of professional pride. It's a great idea for a column. Don't listen to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Bartenders activist here. It's not like you're naming the folks that don't rise to the occasion.

  • Damian

    "...this concoction was half gin, instead of the usual third. A Negroni is no place to revive the 18th century Gin Craze."

    When's the last time you went into a cocktail bar? Or read anything about cocktails? Or tasted gin?

    Everyone makes negronis heavy on the gin. This is for two main reasons:

    1) Gin is smoother than it used to be. Just like Martinis have gone from 1:1 to 3:1 to 5:1 to 'in-and-out' vermouth. Gins also used to be a lot higher in alcohol. There was a time when the only way to temper the harshness of the gin was to keep the quantity of it low. 1/3 gin was enough to cut the sweet and bitter of the other ingredients. If you drink a 1:1:1 negroni with modern gin, the gin will be drowned out by the other two ingredients.

    2) Our tastes have changed. The sweet cocktails that were all the rage in the 1920s, like the 20th Century, for example, are too sweet for our modern palates. We like dry these days, didn't you hear?

    If you like a 1:1:1 negroni, that's fine, but you must have buried your head in the sand to not have noticed that the world moved on without you.

  • JDelaware

    I love this concept for a column. I often order by color or with a specific flavor in mind. Bartenders need to step up their game if they can't make SOMETHING out of a specific ingredient.