Phony Negroni is the Real Deal

Like a lot of you, I’ve been looking for things to drink that are low- or no-alcohol in this, the 27th month of our pandemic, which is what led me to try the Phony Negroni from St. Agrestis in Brooklyn, NY.

And, friends, it is a winner.

A Negroni is an excellent candidate for a canned cocktail since it’s typically a simple mix of one part gin, one part Campari and one part red vermouth, with an orange slice garnish. And the people at St. Agrestis are Negroni experts, making a regular version using their own bitters.

The St. Agrestis Phony Negroni comes in a cute little 200 ml can and it is fairly hard to tell from the real thing. The bitters are good and bitter (unlike typical fake booze which I have found to be sweet and syrupy) and there’s a little bit of carbonation that does a good job of simulating the kick of real gin. I did not have any oranges so I added a couple dashes of Angostura bitters which worked out well.

The only downside is that this sweet little can carries a fairly big price, $5, at my corner liquor store. Ordering online you get a slight break on the cost, more if you go with a subscription service.

On the other hand, were I at a bar I would be perfectly happy to hand over $15 for the privilege of drinking this sophisticated dupe, so there’s that.

The Negroni is said to have been invented in 1919 at a cafe in Florence, Italy, when Pascal Olivier Count de Negroni asked a bartender to strengthen his Americano (red vermouth, Campari and soda) by switching the soda for gin. The bartender also swapped out the regular lemon garnish for orange while he was at it.

As with so many origin stories, this one may or may not be true; in fact, Pascal Olivier may or may not have been a count. What is not in dispute is that this cheery ruby drink has gone on to become a roaring success and I’m tickled pink to find a decent sub.