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Anyone can mix up a cocktail, but it takes a master bartender or mixologist to take a classic and make it his or her own. As an official cocktail, the negroni is available at just about any well-stocked bar that serves liquor. This red-hued drink is currently enjoying a Renaissance of popularity, leading to its presence on the house menus of some of the most exciting establishments in town.

The negroni has remained one of the most popular cocktails in the world for years. In fact, while it may not generate as much media excitement as a Moscow Mule, this Italian cocktail remains a beloved classic.

The negroni is a perfect drink when you want something strong without the connotations of ordering plain liquor. Don’t misinterpret that, however, as all three of the ingredients in this classic cocktail are alcohols. The drink is made from equal parts Campari, semi-sweet vermouth and gin, garnished with orange peel. Campari is a dark red bitters made in Italy for over a century, and the presence of bitters is one reason why people traditionally enjoy this drink before a meal (to aid in digestion).

For those who want the digestive benefits of the Campari bitters without the strength of the gin, the Americano is a popular variation that substitutes soda for the juniper berry liquor. There are also countless variations on this drink. We’ve found five places with excellent negronis that will please those who love this cocktail, as well as newbies.


Location: 3752 Park Blvd., Suite 105C (map)
Price: $$

If you’re looking for a trendy eatery, Hillcrest is a great place to start. Among the many hip places to grab a drink and a meal, Trust is a popular destination for meals and craft cocktails with locals and tourists alike.

The bartenders here absolutely know how to make a great negroni, as well as many other classic cocktails. It’s a great way to start the evening, before an incredible meal.

The menu at Trust features fresh produce used to create flavorful New American dishes. You can find dishes such as octopus fritters, chicken liver toast, braised oxtail ravioli and even a fresh made burger. Each dish has its own special twist, such as fried sage served with pork, grilled lemon and herb relish with a whole grilled fish or vinegar whipped cream served with fingerling potatoes.

If you’re feeling adventurous, consider follo up your negroni (or your meal) with one of their house cocktails. Their Trust Cocktail #2 is an excellent, if spicy, drink. It features jalapeno tequila, grapefruit, agave and firewater bitters. Their Trust Cocktail #14 features charred apple rum, cinnamon, lime and bitters. One of their unique and inspired cocktails is sure to fit your tastes.

Cutwater Spirits

Location: 9750 Distribution Avenue (map)
Hours: Sunday-Thursday: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Price: $$

Cutwater Spirits started out as a small offshoot of Ballast Point Brewing in 2007, but it has expanded substantially since then. These days, Cutwater Spirits is thriving in a 50,000 square foot distillery, where they make many kinds of fun spirits.

There’s a tasting room at the distillery facility where you can enjoy all kinds of classic cocktails, as well as tasty food made right here in the kitchen. They serve salads, burgers, fries, bahn mi sandwiches and even a vegetarian Mediterranean wrap with spinach, as well as bread pudding among other options for dessert. If you prefer a beer when you’re eating, they do have a small menu of beers and wines for you to enjoy.

Of course, the big draw here is the bar stocked with house made liquors. You can enjoy all kinds of cocktails, including cans of their mixed drinks. Their Old Grove Negroni is made with Old Grove Gin, Campari and Carpano Antica, a vanilla-scented sweet vermouth.

They also make plenty of creative and unique cocktails if you want to try something you likely can’t enjoy anywhere else. If you’re feeling like tasting what the distillery has to offer, order up a flight of rum, whiskey, vodka or gin.

Craft & Commerce

Location: 675 W Beech Street (map)
Hours: Monday-Friday: 4 p.m. to midnight, Saturday: 10 a.m. to 1 a.m., Sunday: 10 a.m. to midnight
Price: $$

With brunch on the weekends, a well-stocked bar and a gastropub menu, Craft & Commerce definitely belongs on this list. The combination of impeccable drinks and creative, comforting dishes make this eatery an ideal place to spend an evening, whether out with friends or coworkers.

As you might imagine, the bar here has all kinds of mixers, liqueurs and other ingredients. You likely can’t dream up a drink that they won’t be able to serve you. However, ordering off their cocktail menu is never a bad idea. Neither is letting the bartender put a special spin on a classic, like the negroni.

Enjoy your negroni before an incredible meal. You can enjoy many different kinds of foods here, from grilled oysters to a mushroom tart. The menu also features chicken fried quail, grilled baby back pork ribs, Bolognese with braised beef short ribs, burgers, half chickens and a melon and fig salad made with local produce.

If you come early on the weekends, you can enjoy a full brunch menu, with everything from a corn bread skillet to goat cheese toast and a carne asada Benedict. You can take advantage of the full bar menu at that time as well, enjoying a mimosa or perhaps a house cocktail.

Kettner Exchange

Location: 2001 Kettner Blvd. (map)
Hours: Monday-Wednesday: 5 p.m. to midnight, Thursday and Friday: 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., Saturday: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., Sunday: 11 a.m. to midnight
Price: $$

Given that it’s an Italian cocktail, it shouldn’t be surprising that at least a few places in Little Italy make a mean negroni. Kettner Exchange is certainly one of them!

This place is often on the bleeding edge of culinary trends. That, of course, means they serve a mean brunch on the weekends. They also offer special pairing events, where dinner dishes get matched perfectly with wines. There is also a smaller, secondary location inside called the chef’s table, where diners can enjoy perfectly paired wines with foods that include special ingredients not on the main menu.

As you might imagine with all the attention to trends, the food here is truly something special, with changes to the menu and special offerings regularly. Currently, their menu includes quail fried rice, frog legs, duck meatballs, steaks, fresh fish and pork chops.

If you’re looking for a classic negroni, they will certainly make one that is up to the highest standards. However, if you want something a little special, you could consider one of their house cocktails, including a negroni featuring grapefruit shandy. For the less adventurous, there are options for wine and draft beers to please your palate.