The Negroni is celebrating its 100th birthday and it deserves to be recognised for the incredible, bitter beverage that it is. Possibly the greatest cocktail of them all.
Along with the Old Fashioned, the Negroni is probably the most 'grown-up' cocktail you can drink. It’s what we like to call a ‘real drink’, as in, you can taste the booze, you know you’re drinking. Combined with its exceptional food-pairing abilities you have the perfect cocktail for aperitivo, for eating delectable canapes in the summer heat of Milan, stirring the ice to reduce the strength of the drink. It’s equally refreshing and 'amaro' (bitter). It’s served in a cut-glass tumbler, no garnish other than an orange slice, and its deep crimson colour is as joy to behold.
The drink can trace its origin to Florence, Tuscany where legend has it Count Camillo Negronidictated the recipe to his barman Fosco Scarselli, at the Caffè Casoni in via de ‘Tornabuoni.
The precursor to the Negroni was the Americano. A light cocktail containing Campari, sweet vermouth and soda water. It was originally known as the Milano-Torino due to the provenance of its two main ingredients, but its name changed due to its popularity with visiting Americans who came to Italy to escape Prohibition.
The Count, however, was tired of the light Americano and desired a cocktail with a little more potency, so he ordered Scarselli to replace the soda water with gin. Scarselli added his twist by replacing the usual lemon slice with orange. Thus the Negroni was born.
The drink is a staple of the Italian bar scene and of late, it along with its lighter cousin the Spritz, is enjoying a moment of international resurgence. The Negroni is appreciated by mixologists for its purity, it doesn’t play with new and complex flavours and it’s not overly sweet. Like the Italian classics on the plate, like spaghetti cacao e pepe, containing jut three ingredients, it’s the Italian expression of simplicity.
Count Camillo Negroni knew he was on to a good thing when he invented it and became so fond of it, the cocktail bears his name to this day. He loved his Negroni so much that a friend of his, Francis Harper, in a letter of October 13th 1920, advised him not to drink more than twenty a day!
The Negroni Sbagliato (sbagliato means ‘wrong’) was later invented in Bar Basso in Milan, when the barman accidently poured Prosecco instead of gin. The ‘Negrosky’ replaces gin with vodka.
THE PERFECT NEGRONI RECIPE
1 shot Bitter Campari
1 shot Red Vermouth
1 shot Gin
1 half Orange Slice
Add a spray of soda water, mix well and pour over three cubes of ice into a cool tumbler. Enjoy!