Amongst the all time favourite cocktail of mixologists and barkeeps around the world is the humble Negroni. A 100 year old recipe of simple equal parts of Gin, Vermouth, and bitters, is savvy, sophisticated, and its history crosses oceans.
Origins of Negroni
Much like any classic there are many stories. The most agreed upon one, however, begins in 1919 at Caffe Casoni in Florence, Italy. A gentleman named Count Camillo Negroni who’d drink Americano which is a mix of Sweet Vermouth and Campari, and an orange garnish.
One fine day he asked his bartender friend, Fosco Scarselli, to ‘strengthen’ his drink, replacing soda with Gin, and hence the drink was created.
But, why would an Italian man ask for a drink called Americano in Italy or have it generously infused with British Gin?
Do you know The Americano, in fact, is the first cocktail ordered in the first 007 novel. It may be called Americano but the cocktail was born in Milan. Initially, there was a drink called Milano Torino, since it was equal parts of Campari and Vermouth, and Campari came from Milan and Vermouth from Torino. But then with the Prohibition in the US, tons of Americans came to Italy. They loved the drink, but decided to top up this bitter sweet concoction with club soda, and this was then called Americano.
History Complicates Everything
Some say Milano Torino always had soda and the American didn’t add it, some deny that. Some say there were two men called Count Negorni some say there was only one. Some say the elder one Pascal Oliver created the drink in Africa, some say no Count Camilo did in Italy. Some even say Negroni had lemon garnish earlier, some say it was always orange. even today the true recipe of Negroni can be debated!
There are various sources with varied recipes. The simple equal part recipe was first mentioned in writing, only in 1929, 10 years after the drinks creation. What about the Harry’s New York Bar invention – The Boulevardier then? That came 2 years before this written recipe. A shot each of Campari and Vermouth and a shot and a half of Bourbon.
Variation in Recipes
An ocean of choices between different Gins, vermouths, and even a different bitter beyond Campari!! And for the garnish, while a citrus works, why not try herb complimenting the Gin? there are Tequila or Mezcal Negronis, and they work!! White Negroni – Gin, Suze, and Lillet Blanc finished with a citrus garnish. One can even put some in oak casks which people do quite a lot nowadays. But, forget not what Late Anthony Bourdain said – The drink will “hit you like a freight train after five or four”
Legacy and Records
There’s a Guinness World Record for the largest Negroni made? In 2018 in Pheonix Arizona, a 504 litres of its was made in an oak barrel within an hour. It may’ve gotten a few people drunk but the proceeds from that benefitted local charities. Another special thing that Negroni has to itself that probably no other cocktail does is the worldwide celebration of the Negroni Week. It started in 2013 and today they celebrate it in over 120 countries and have collected about $3 million for charitable causes. It’s generally celebrated in June, but this year for very obvious reasons, it’s celebrated in Sept 14-20. So mark the calendar !