The New StatesmanThe New Statesman

A brief history of 'woke drinks'

By Felicity Cloake

18 Jul 2023 · 3 min read

informed Summary

  1. A U.K. news channel has described the negroni as the signature drink of the “woke… establishment media”. But the cocktail’s popularity extends beyond the socially aware, argues Felicity Cloake in The New Statesman.

There was bad news last week for aperitivo-loving bigots, as the self-styled “people’s news channel” GB News declared the negroni the signature drink of the “woke… establishment media” – something that would probably surprise the 19th-century Corsican count and decorated cavalry officer credited with its creation. But I doubt this ruby-red cocktail, apparently a favourite of David and Samantha Cameron, is only popular with the socially aware: these days everyone is drinking them… apart from, it seems, the handful of people watching GB News.

And that’s fine – one should only drink what one enjoys, and for a long time the British did not share the Italian enthusiasm for bitter tipples. Indeed I suspect that this was part of the negroni’s appeal; hipsters of any political persuasion love to embrace the underdog, to show off their superior taste by leaning into flavours others find difficult: in this case, the uncompromisingly herbal hit of Campari. Barely a decade ago, Victoria Moore could write that “negroni drinkers are like a secret Masonic sect, so proud of their affiliation that when they mention it by name, a certain knowing look, recognised only by other negroni drinkers, darts across their faces”. By 2021 you could buy negroni-branded T-shirts from M&S, a clear sign that fashion had already moved on, even if no one had bothered to tell the folks on channel 236.

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