It’s that time of year again. No, I’m not talking about summer barbecues or farmers’ markets or even patio season. I’m talking about Negroni Week (June 6–12), Imbibe Magazine and Campari’s worldwide, charity-minded campaign focused on the classic cocktail of Campari, gin, and sweet vermouth.
In Denver, the place to celebrate the week is as at Green Russell, Frank Bonanno’s subterranean speakeasy in Larimer Square. Last year, beverage director Adam Hodak broke the record for the world’s largest barrel-aged Negroni (53 gallons!). Shortly after, however, Le Central bar in Las Vegas broke his record by less than a gallon.
Not to be outdone, this year Hodak has turned to an unexpected ingredient for his Negroni-inspired offering: coffee beans. He collaborated with Pablo’s Coffee and poured 135 pounds of Brazil Bahia “Conquista” green coffee beans into last year’s Negroni barrel. (Hodak had about 20 gallons of the cocktail leftover, which he transferred to a series of smaller barrels and has continued to age.)
“I first heard about coffee geeks on the West Coast barrel-aging beans in 2013,” says Hodak. The idea reemerged when he was searching for a way to up his Negroni Week game this year. “I’m a big coffee drinker, and Pablo’s really is one of the best roasters in the state,” he says.
While most would assume that whiskey or rum would pair better with coffee, Hodak had a hunch that the Negroni would make a more interesting partner. “Most of the citrusy notes from the Campari and the pine in the gin fell off after a year,” he says. “We were left with some chocolate and coffee notes that I thought would work well.” It’s too early to tell if Hodak’s hunch was right. After the beans’ two-week stint in the barrels, Pablo’s will roast them, package them, and then sell them (with 100-percent of profits going to Water for People, a nonprofit focused on developing high-quality drinking water sources around the world) for Negroni Week.
Although you’ll have to head to one of Pablo’s locations to get the beans themselves, Hodak’s special cocktail also uses them. The Negroni Romano is a blend of cold brew coffee (made with the beans), barrel-aged Negroni, and house-made vanilla syrup. You can sip it June 6-12, and a dollar from each drink sold will also benefit Water for People.
1422 Larimer St., 303-893-6505