A Negroni Anecdote

Many bartenders, myself included, will probably tell you that after a long night at work, there is no better cocktail to sip than the Negroni. The reasons for this are many, but in my mind it is because this cocktail is stark yet complex, prone to infinite variation, and well, really boozy. The following tale is penned by author Marisa Huff in her 2016 book Apertivo: The Cocktail Culture of Italy. In it, she tells the tale of the invention of this wonderful drink.

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photo by Michael Olen

“The Negroni is Italy’s greatest contribution to the cocktail world. Personally, I would argue that it is one of Italy’s greatest contributions to the world in general, right up there with the Coliseum and the Vespa.

While nothing beats a Bellini on a lazy June afternoon in Venice, the Negroni is strong enough to stand up to a Boston snowstorm and refreshing enough to handle the Texas heat in August. Made with equal parts gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth, it’s a dark, bittersweet blend that can match many moods.

The drink is named after Count Camillo Negroni, who inherited his taste for gin from his English mother on his many trips to London. As the story goes, the cocktail Negroni was created in 1919 in Florence by Fosco Scarelli, the then bartender of Caffe Casoni, which was later moved and renamed Caffe Giacosa. Count Negroni was a Casoni regular, allowing Scarelli to get to know him, and his wife, quite well. Apparently the countess wasn’t particularly pleased with her husband’s drinking.

So as a seasoned professional, Scarelli fulfilled and, more important, said nothing of the count’s request to replace the soda water in his Americano with gin, London dry of course. Other Casoni clients caught on to the trick and began ordering their Americanos ‘Negroni-style.’ To an untrained eye, the drinks look identical, and in order to distinguish them, Scarelli would add a whole slice of orange to an Americano, and just a half slice to a Negroni, a subtle gesture worthy of a count.”

 

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