In my experience as a bartender, I find it is often the booze of choice for “penalty shots.” And, by that, I mean the punitive libations that a sadistic bartender will make his fumbling colleague consume after that same unfortunate coworker breaks a glass or screws up a customer’s drink order.
Drinking Campari is punishment for more than a few reasons; most memorably the way it seems to numb your entire mouth, so tasting anything after even the smallest sip appears entirely futile.
The classic cocktail recipe employing this dubious liquor is called a “Negroni,” named for Count Camillo Negroni who legendary invented the drink around 1919. But at D.C. hooch haven The Passenger, which seems to share my dislike of that particular spirit, they’ve managed to make a bizarro version of the same drink without using any of the vile stuff.
The so-called “Notgroni” swaps in a different type of Italian bitters, Gran Classico, pleasantly changing the color and flavor of the drink altogether.
Combined with the Negroni’s traditional gin and vermouth, the Gran Classico alters the normally garnet-glowing drink into a tawny treat. It was thick and sweet, with back hints of honey and rhubarb. Its earthy pungency and sweetness stuck with me long after I departed.
The Passenger, 1021 7th Street, NW, (202) 393-0220
Trixie Tamerlane is the author of From The Other Side: Pourings from the Mind of a Bartender
Photo by Trixie Tamerlane