The History of the Negroni
Have you ever dreamed of being an Italian Count? You know, a fancy aristocrat with an ocean-side villa, a butler, and a few exotic Maserati’s and Ferrari’s in the “stable?” I have to admit I’ve had a few of these Italophile inspired dreams, but I’m quite happy living the Italian life in the US. There is one particular Italian Count I envy on a day to day basis however and his name is Count Camillo Negroni the inventor, as you probably guessed, of the classic Negroni aperitif / cocktail. The legend goes that Count entered his favorite cafe and/or bar near Florence in the early 20th century and asked his bartender, Fosco Scarcelli, for something stronger than the usual Americano (comprised of Campari, Soda water, and red vermouth and very popular with foreigners) so Scarcelli substituted Gin for the soda water. Hence, the Negroni was born.
At the heart of the Negroni is the spirit Campari, developed by a young Gaspare Campari around 1860 in Novara (he began tinkering with the aperitif / bitter in 1842) and comprised of a blend of 60 ingredients. Campari is both sweet and bitter and has cherry and orange flavors (including both subtle burnt and herbal tones). Campari is a blend of equal parts sugar syrup, alcohol, distilled water, and an infusion flavored with oranges, rhubarb, and a secret mixture of herbs, according to Willam Sertl. The red color used to come from cochineal dye, made from the dried bodies of cochineal insects but in 2006 an artificial coloring agent was substituted for the insects.
Our recipe for the classic Negroni is comprised of equal parts Tangueray Dry Gin, Carpano Antica Red Vermouth, and Campari. We serve the drink on the rocks with a healthy slice of orange, making sure to rub the skin of the orange slice to release the essential oils. We always stir the drink ingredients and never shake in a mixer. We also favor the red vermouth Carpano Antica Formula (the first red vermouth ever produced) as it’s most likely the best red vermouth on the planet and elevates any cocktail / aperitif to a new level.
My favorite way to enjoy a Negroni is just prior to a wonderful meal, after a long day at work, or a lazy weekend spent outdoors. The bitters prepare and stimulate the taste buds and is, in my view, one of the small pleasures in life.
How to Make a Negroni
- 1 ounce of Campari
- 1 ounce of Dry Gin
- 1 ounce of Carpano Antica Formula red vermouth
- Fresh ice
- 1 slice of orange (or blood orange) – we like to squeeze some juice out of the orange slice and thereafter rub the skin to release some of the oils.
Combine the ingredients in a tumbler or long highball glass and mix well with a spoon. Slice a thick piece of orange from a standard eating orange or blood orange, work some of the juice out of the slice and rub the skin to release the oils. Enjoy as a pre-dinner aperitif with a light snack.