How The Negroni Became the Unofficial Menswear Drink

Photo: Peter Zottolo

One of the gifts (curses?) social media gave us is the ability to see a lot more of our friends and acquaintances than we used to in the pre-Facebook era. This means that you’ve probably seen more baby and pet pictures than you’d care, as well as enough vacation snaps to give you rampant FOMO and precipitate you into a premature mid-life crisis.
If you’re part of the Styleforum community, you might have noticed a shift in the way men choose to display their outfits and share them with other aficionados. First of all, everyone now seems to have a rather substantial Leica/Sony/Canon equipment and a full-time photographer ready to immortalize them any time they might look cool: exiting a cafe, getting out of the car, and of course, relaxing on an armchair while contemplating intensely a cocktail that, more often than not, happens to be a Negroni.
If we look back to past decades’ pop and cultural icons, it’s hard to pinpoint a single beverage gentlemen used to favor; Bond’s infamous Martini comes to mind, as well as Hemingway’s Death In The Afternoon, whose recipe I feel obliged to share quoting the creator’s exact words:

“Pour one jigger absinthe into a Champagne glass. Add iced Champagne until it attains the proper opalescent milkiness. Drink three to five of these slowly.”

Winston Churchill was partial to Highballs, Charles Baudelaire had a toxic affair with absinthe, whose green fairy inspired more than one Flower of Evil. However, as iconic as these drinks are, we can’t consider them quintessentially manly; this characteristic seems to pertain to any beverage with a high alcoholic content and strong flavor. The Negroni falls into this category, and it is without a doubt an iconic cocktail recognized by the IBA, but its fame can hardly justify its ubiquity in 2020.
What happened that skyrocketed this cocktail’s popularity and compelled the menswear community to adopt it as its unofficial drink?
Social media, as I said, played a crucial role: the reasons behind something going viral -or becoming very popular- are often unpredictable, but in this case we can identify at least a few culprits, and all of them involve relevancy on social media platforms.

Negroni Week

Imbibe magazine came up with the Negroni Week in 2013 as a way to celebrate a beloved drink and raise money for charity. During Negroni Week, bars and restaurants worldwide offer their own interpretations of Negroni (worthy of note is the Negroni donut made by Sidecar Doughnuts in Orange County) and donate part of the proceeds to a charity organization.
Instagrammers from every corner of the globe share their orange-tinted drinks, and if we learned something about viral trends, it is that they become so when a significant amount of people post the same content in a short time frame so that it’s kind of hard to miss.
2020 was an unfortunate year for bars, and Imbibe had no choice but to move the Negroni Week online. We look forward to a more cheerful edition in the coming year.

The Extensive Coverage on Social Media of Pitti Uomo

Twice a year, in normal years, the Italian menswear fair catalyzes the attention of our community and produces endless inspirations ranging from outfits to lifestyle to…cocktails. Why the Negroni is a popular drink at Pitti is easily explained: the drink was born in Florence exactly 100 years ago, and every bar in the city worth its salt offers it on their aperitivo menu. It’s no surprise that as soon as the sun goes down, orange drinks dot the tables of the Renaissance City and make an appearance on our phone screens when people share their #aperitivo moments.

Negroni’s pleasant color

In the menswear world, color is somewhat feared; I’m not saying we don’t ever see colorful garments (in fact, someone even came up with a Negroni-inspired fabric last year) but neutral shades are usually preferred to vibrant ones. For people walking the sartorial path of life, color lives in small details: a pocket square, a lapel pin, or…the drink one’s holding.
A bright orange cocktail adds a pop of color to the Instagram vignette without the hassle of pairing further accessories to the outfit. Plus, Negroni’s vitaminic color is particularly suitable for a social media post, as it conjures up feelings of happiness and good times.
Like house plants, Negronis blend with the background and enhance it: tweed suits, linen sportcoats, Barbours, Hawaiian shirts – everything looks a bit sexier next to this flame-colored concoction. 

Campari’s 100th Birthday and Avalanche of Acquisitions

Campari has been wildly successful since the company’s infancy, but its value skyrocketed in the past 15 years after acquiring some of the world’s most popular spirits, such as Grand Marnier, Bulldog Gin, Glen Grant, SKYY, and Aperol to name just a few.
With Campari turning into a behemoth of the liqueur industry, a big shift happened in the way they advertise their products: Campari put together a masterful social media campaign in 2019 to celebrate Negroni’s 100th birthday. The campaign involved endorsements from celebrity bartenders, shoutouts by spirit influencers (yes, it’s a thing), and a partnership with Negroni Week.
Camparino, the historic bar situated in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele in the heart of Milan, counts hundreds of Instagram tags from people sharing their craft cocktails made with the bitter aperitif and it’s currently one of the hot spots of the Milanese movida thanks partly to the push on social media from Italian and international personalities.
As much as we hate admitting to have fallen victims of influencer marketing, if you find yourself enjoying Negroni more often than you used to, it may be because Campari planned it in their corporate offices.

The 2020 Pandemic

Whether because they needed comfort or the energy to keep smiling during a depressing Zoom Happy Hour, many people found themselves holding a drink often this year. 
As soon as my computer turns off at 5 PM, it’s less than five minutes before I’m running a hot bath and staring into the depths of my old-fashioned glass. And because I crave social interaction and want to let my friends and relatives know I’m still alive, I oftentimes snap a quick picture of my glass and half-guiltily hit “share” on Instagram, waiting for a sign that I’m not alone in the world and people do indeed remember I exist.

These are mere speculations as I don’t have the exact recipe for Negroni’s popularity over the past few years; what I do have is a recipe for a perfect Negroni, so you don’t end up butchering if you accidentally come across Stanley Tucci’s tutorial – another mystery of the virality of content on social media. 

Original, Traditional, I-Swear-To-God-This-Is-The-Real-Deal Negroni recipe:

3 cl gin
3 cl Campari
3 cl red vermouth

Glass: old fashioned 
Garnish: half orange slice

Add the three ingredients (progressively, starting with the one with the highest alcohol content) into a chilled old-fashioned glass full of ice; stir gently. Finish with a half orange slice.

Cin cin!

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Arianna Reggio

Arianna is an Italian trapped in Southern California, and she's still trying to cope with the fact she's living in a country where they put pineapples on pizza. She is into both Style AND Fashion, but she hardly ever writes about it because all her free time is spent between yoga, rock concerts, and Victorian poetry.

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6 thoughts on “How The Negroni Became the Unofficial Menswear Drink

  1. I love a Negroni. It is boozy and interesting. A nice summer-y variant uses Aperol and Cocchi Americano. Add a dash of grapefruit bitters and you’re good to go.

    • That sounds delightful, and much more interesting than the Spritz, which is the go-to summer cocktail in Italy!

  2. I’m flattered that you used one of my IG posts in your article! I definitely want a Negroni now!

  3. I had no clue… I used to drink Negronis back in the 80s, early 90s… Nowadays it is just too much alcohol for me… so I stick to beer as “aperitivo”… (yes, I know that for Italians beer is only appropriate when you eat pizza… but in Spain it is the typical pre-dinner drink…)
    Regarding pineapple on different dishes, some hints in this Swedish video:

    • Pizza is a classic aperitivo snack so it’s not uncommon at all to have beer for aperitivo! I know I love a good, chilled lager on hot summer evenings 🙂

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