At every despairing glance The Winter of Discontent of 1978-79 seems to be reoccurring in a somewhat different guise, but with similar implications. That winter, widespread private and later public sector strikes caused great public inconvenience. Exacerbated by the onset of the coldest winter for 16 years, mounds of frozen garbage accumulated high up the misty Soho shop windows in central London. It had major impacts on each citizen, just as Covid-19 is doing on a global scale. In a time of weathering stifling inhibitions – there is an elixir which is striding vehemently in the opposite direction. Perhaps it is the time for the two to meet in the middle.
A zeitgeist defining cocktail, which has a history spanning a dash over 100 years, the Negroni is experiencing a resurgence. Since its fateful inception, this slightly bitter concoction – made of equal parts Campari, sweet vermouth and gin has gone from relative obscurity to replacing the ink of other noteworthy drinks on menus worldwide. There is also no other cocktail that embodies the spirit of The Rake Magazine, quite like the Negroni. It is one of the reasons why we stock two limited addition Negroni dachshund print face masks from Dapper Villains and a pair of black velvet Negroni slippers from Stubbs & Wootton.
The Negroni can be traced back to a Florentine Count in 1919. According to reliable lore, the crimson drink was first concocted in Caffè Casoni by legendary barman Fosco Scarselli. Count Negroni – a patron of the bar, lived partly in Florence and London and travelled extensively. He had penchant for strong liquor which it was rumoured, stemmed from his time working as a rodeo clown in the American Wild West. Back in Florence always drinking Americanos: bitters, vermouth and soda, the Count required a stiffener and after drinking gin previously in London, the barman obliged and the rest is history.
In the last decade its acceleration of popularity has eclipsed many of its rivals of traditional ilk – and it’s not just because it’s a liquid stakeholder in the recent cocktail boom, but more by coincidence. This ubiquity is due to the boom in botanical magic; gin’s popularity in the last decade has seen many drinks proprietors old and new relishing in its renaissance. The second of the drink’s flavours and the one it’s most famous for – its bitter taste has also been elevated up the hierarchy of drinks crazes. In the US for example, which is one of the main markets for alcohol in the world, what you get is a lot of bitter, amaro and vermouth. With all of this in mind, the Negroni is the best combination that you can use to glorify the trio of flavours.
Cultural events had already dictated the rapid rise of the Negroni, but what it didn’t foresee is its spiritual role in lifting us out of the dark times that we find ourselves in. Along with one of the most famous Bears on the planet (the Ralph Lauren Polo Bear) who for many of us has become a symbol of hope and optimism and resembles the same connotations in this time as the Negroni, The Rake’s Founder, Wei Koh, was overjoyed to learn of Mr. Lauren’s personal assent at the idea of creating a Rake Bear timepiece with Ralph Lauren in recognition of the launch of the new Ralph Lauren Polo watch collection.
The Rake community and I’m sure many others across the globe have been turning to the Negroni for solace. It has become a symbol of resistance against this woeful interval of life. Its distinct orange hue burns brightly against the darkness and with its romance and of course its ingredient of alcohol, it sweeps away the misery and opens up happiness – at least for a short while. Without hesitation The Rake x Ralph Lauren ‘Negroni Bear’ Polo Bear Watch was born. It reinterprets the iconic Polo Bear motif on the watch with a Tuxedo Bear holding a Negroni. To incorporate some mild old humour the dial of the watch features hands as well as the 5 o’clock index in distinct Negroni orange. Why the number five? Well, because it is always 5 o’clock somewhere…
The Rake x Ralph Lauren ‘Negroni Bear’ Polo Bear Watch which is limited edition is now available. The watch is a 42mm edition, made in Switzerland and is limited to 200 pieces. He comes with a black calf strap as well as a Negroni-orange grosgrain strap. Like his brothers that have come before him, we hope The Rake’s Negroni Bear achieves his defining mission in life, which is to put a huge smile on the face of each and every one of his owners. Please raise a glass to the newest member of the team.