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The Negroni, A Classic Cocktail With A Fascinating History

Negroni

The Negroni is one of those rare classic cocktails that seems to get more popular as the years go by. Once only consumed by cocktail aficionados who loved indulging in timeless flavours, this bitter, boozy creation has enjoyed a massive resurgence over the last decade and has now become one of the trendiest orders at the bar. 

But as you order your Negroni, here are some fun facts to ponder as you take the first sip. Because even though it's a modern favourite, it has a history that goes back over a century. 

1919: The Birth of a Legend

The journey begins in the city of Florence, Italy, in 1919. It was a time when cocktails were still gaining prominence, and Negroni's creation would add a timeless chapter to the world of mixology. Count Camillo Negroni, an Italian nobleman with a penchant for adventure, played a pivotal role in the cocktail's genesis. After returning from his travels across the United States and Europe, where he had donned the hats of a rodeo cowboy and fencing instructor, the Count found himself at the Caffè Casoni—a quaint watering hole nestled in the heart of Florence.

The Count was in the mood for a bolder, more potent version of his usual tipple, the Americano, and in doing so set the stage for the rise of the Negroni. Without missing a beat, Fosco Scarselli, the bartender at Caffè Casoni replaced the soda water in the Americano with gin, transforming a mild aperitif into a robust, spirited cocktail. To signify this innovative twist, Scarselli garnished the concoction with a slice of orange instead of the customary lemon wedge. Little did they know that this simple alteration would give birth to a legend. The Count's audacious request that fateful day would forever change the landscape of classic cocktails.

1947: Orson Welles and the Negroni's Recognition

Negroni's journey from a hidden gem in Florence to international acclaim took a significant leap in 1947, thanks to the iconic actor and director Orson Welles. While on location in Rome, Welles sampled the Negroni and remarked that the bitters were excellent for his liver, even thought gin is bad for him, and together they balance each other out. This endorsement by a prominent figure added to the Negroni's allure and bolstered its reputation as a distinguished cocktail.

1967: The Negroni Sbagliato

Bar Basso, a renowned establishment in Milan, is credited with introducing a delightful variation of the Negroni known as the "Negroni Sbagliato" or the "mistaken Negroni." This sparkling twist on the classic cocktail substitutes Prosecco for gin. Legend has it that this variation was born from a bartender's accidental mix-up, as he grabbed a bottle of Prosecco instead of gin. The customer's delight with the resulting creation gave rise to a new Negroni iteration, showcasing the cocktail's adaptability and versatility.

2010: Barrel-Aged Negronis

In 2010, Jeffrey Morgenthaler, a pioneer in the world of cocktails, brought innovation to a new level with barrel-aged Negronis. Hailing from Clyde Common in Portland, Oregon, Morgenthaler successfully barrel-aged Negronis, initially experimenting with Manhattans before venturing into the world of Negronis. The ageing process infused the cocktail with nuanced flavours and a smooth finish, adding another dimension to the Negroni's legacy.

2013: The Birth of Negroni Week

Negroni Week, a significant milestone in the Negroni's journey, was introduced in 2013. Imbibe Magazine, in collaboration with Campari, initiated this annual celebration of the Negroni, encouraging bars across the United States to craft their interpretations of the classic cocktail. Participating establishments also pledged to donate a portion of their Negroni profits to charitable causes of their choice. Negroni Week has since gained widespread popularity, uniting cocktail enthusiasts and bartenders in a global toast to the beloved Negroni while positively impacting various charitable initiatives.

Alternative Theories and Debates

Despite the widely accepted origin story of Count Camillo Negroni's role in the cocktail's creation, alternative theories and debates about Negroni's name persist. One such theory suggests that a Corsican family with the surname Negroni crafted a drink known as the "Negroni Punch." However, the lack of substantial evidence casts doubt on this claim, making Count Camillo Negroni's story the more credible narrative.

Another debated theory revolves around General Pascal Olivier de Negroni, a French military officer of Italian descent. Advocates of this theory argue that the general concocted a beverage similar to the modern-day Negroni during his service in Senegal. Nonetheless, the composition of the general's drink differs from the classic Negroni, making this theory less plausible.

A Timeless Sip

Amidst the debates and alternative narratives, the Negroni cocktail's enduring legacy is rooted in the tale of Count Camillo Negroni and his fateful visit to the Caffè Casoni. His adventurous spirit, coupled with a bold request for a more potent libation, gifted the world with a timeless classic that continues to inspire mixologists and delight palates across the globe.

The Negroni's rich history and captivating origin story remind us of the ever-evolving nature of the cocktail world. As mixologists continue to innovate and experiment with new flavours and techniques, the Negroni stands as a testament to the power of curiosity and the importance of embracing change in the pursuit of the perfect drink.