An Ode to the Negroni

For Negroni Week, we celebrate Italy’s primo aperitvo.

In his book The Negroni: Drinking to La Dolce Vita, with Recipes & Lore cocktail historian Gaz Regan credits the cocktail’s creation to a Florentine nobleman by the name of Count Camillo Negroni, who was known far and wide for both his love of strong drink and his surliness. At the time of the Negroni’s invention in 1920, the Count had recently returned to Florence from America, where he’d spent time slugging whiskey and wrangling rodeo bulls. So when he marched down to his local café and demanded an Americano with more than the usual kick to it, bartender Fosco Scarselli knew better than to trifle with the gentleman. Scarselli delivered the added oomph the Count desired by replacing club soda with gin, and in so doing sired a drink for the ages.

Regan is bartender emeritus at one of New York’s premier cocktail emporiums, The Dead Rabbit, and author of numerous spirited tomes including The Bartender’s Bible, New Classic Cocktails, and The Joy of Mixology. He swears by this Negroni origin story, avowing it to be “as factual as the Battle of Waterloo.”

Like the best classic cocktails, the Negroni is predicated upon simplicity of structure and complexity of ingredients. For proper construction, one needs an Old Fashioned glass or a coupe, a strainer, bar spoon, and mixing glass. In the latter, combine equal parts (1.25 oz) London Dry Gin, Campari, and Sweet Vermouth. Stir these ingredients gently with ice. A Negroni is not a Martini; it should never be shaken. Enjoy it neat or on the rocks. One may even tap into one’s inner Fosco Scarselli and do some swapping—perhaps use a little Del Maguey Vida Mezcal instead of gin for a smokier, more savory tipple.

A proper Negroni is to be garnished with an orange twist and an orange twist only. No substitutes. Indeed, Regan goes so far as to say the orange twist is nearly as essential a component of the drink as the alcohol, with an emphasis on the word nearly.

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