On a Tuesday in early June I was hunkered down at one of my favorite local watering holes, the Corner Door in Culver City, a charming spot with a stellar cocktail program. I ordered a Negroni, my go-to starter drink for the last while. I used to kick off nights out with a couple Twelve Mile Limits, but my newly acquired hangover allergy put an end to that. Besides, a 12-mile anything in LA invariably takes at least 90 minutes.
“Got anything fun planned for National Negroni Week?” asked Bethany the bartender, as she slid my favorite ruby-colored libation (with extra gin, thanks) in front of me.
“National Negroni Week…” I began, too embarrassed to admit that after 20 years on the adult beverage beat I’d never heard of such a thing. “When’s that happening again?”
“Started yesterday,” she said, before enumerating a shocking number of Negroni-related specials available around town—Negronis served in lightbulbs at Belcampo, Negroni burgers at Umami, ice cream Negronis at Sprinkles, Negroni-infused butt implants at Dr. Nippentuck’s in Beverly Hills. “It’s for charity,” she continued.
As images of rag-clad liquor company execs rattling change cups on skid row faded from my head, my thoughts shifted. As far as manufactured holidays invented to boost liquor company profits go, maybe National Negroni Week isn’t so bad. Turned out Bethany was right—it does raise money for the needy. According to the NNW website, in 2015 more than 3,500 venues around the world participated, raising just over $320,000 for charitable causes. That’s wonderful, I thought. Almost a third of a million bucks going to people that need it and otherwise wouldn’t have gotten it. Then I did the one thing a booze writer should never do...
My thoughts shifted again. According to my calculations, $320,000 from 3,500 venues averages out to $91.43 per venue. Over a week, that averages to $13.06 per day. Which is roughly the cost of one Los Angeles-priced Negroni (sans tip) per day, minus administrative costs and adjusted for exchange rates and... You know what? On second thought, as far as holidays invented by liquor companies to boost profits go, maybe National Negroni Week is so bad!
I just want people to be honest when they lie to me. There are a lot of regular old run-of-the-mill invented liquor company holidays, from National Daiquiri Day (July 19th) to National Vodka Day (October 4th). Irish Coffee gets an entire week at the end of January (insert Irish drinking joke here). And what I really appreciate about these phony observances is that their organizers had the decency to avoid any and all philanthropic pretense.
These fake holidays are naked attempts to goose interest and sales for no reason other than to goose interest and sales. They are honest lies that embody America’s two fundamental values: greed and shamelessness. Besides that, these designated drinking days are an important piece of the social contract—I want to get loaded on Yom Kippur, and these people tell me that’s a normal and natural thing to want to do, so long as I drink a specific kind of booze. And that’s where the relationship should end.
But when someone tries to manipulate me with illusive appeals to my sense of magnanimity, things get weird fast. Because let’s get one thing straight—I don’t drink to help people. I drink to crush the spirits of the people who love me most. Convincing me I’m somehow “helping” by drinking enough Negronis to fill Arnold Schwarzenegger's swimming pool is nothing but empty pandering. Just tell me it’s a holiday, and I’ll drink your crap. I live for this stuff.
Which is why I’ve made the ultimate sacrifice. Yes, it’s summer, and yes, Negronis are objectively the most refreshing high-proof cocktail in existence, and yes, they are very hard to screw up so you can order them in bars that aren’t trying to convince themselves they’re living in 1929. But no. No more. I have not ordered a single Negroni since that early June night at the Corner Door.
If I’ve learned anything in my 30-some-odd years on the planet it’s that sometimes you’ve got to take a stand. Like refusing to admit you dye your hair and are actually in your mid-40s, even when people point out that’s not what it says on your stupid liar of a driver’s license. You can measure age your way; I’ll measure it my way. And I’ve decided you’re only as old as how many Negronis you’ve had in your life. In other words, I have found a way to stop time. You’re welcome.
Taking a stand isn’t always easy, particularly if you drink for a living. But it’s all that separates us from politicians. I didn’t want to abandon my beloved Negronis. But I did it anyway. Does that make me a hero? Probably. Will it magically cause me to never age another day? Without a doubt.
All I know is that next time I visit Bethany I’ll be ordering a brace of Twelve Mile Limits, hangover be damned. Take THAT, charity!
Dan Dunn has turned biting the hands that feed him into a spectator sport. Check out Dan’s latest book, American Wino: A Tale of Reds, Whites and One Man’s Blues. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.