The History Behind the Negroni Recipe
All hail the negroni, king of the equal-parts cocktail. But what is a negroni at its core? Who could have come up with something so ... perfect?
Refreshing but spirit-forward, bright but stirred. Dry, bracing, and refined, the negroni recipe was born roughly around 1920 in Florence, Italy, invented by a man bearing the name of—you guessed it—Negroni.
Camillo Negroni was a count, born into a wealthy family to an Italian father and an English mother. He was also a world traveler and, at various times, apparently a cowboy, a fencer, and a gambler. Also, he was a consummate drinker.
This Count Negroni happened to be a regular at not one, but two bars in Florence. He dropped by the bar at the Grand Hotel every day, but was known to often visit his friend, a bartender at the now-shuttered Caffè Casoni, before heading to the Grand Hotel. It was likely there, at Caffè Casoni, that his namesake drink was created.
The Inception of the Beloved Negroni
Some context: at the time, Europe was flush with Americans lingering there after World War I or just being super-cool expats. These Americans became the inspiration for a drink nicknamed the americano—made with Campari, sweet vermouth, and soda—since Americans liked this blend of Italian apéritifs mixed with a little splash of soda to make it more refreshing.
This is all just to say that at some point, Count Negroni decided he would have none of that. He needed something stronger.
As the story goes, Negroni asked his friend at Caffè Casoni to make him something with a little more oomph. The oomph, on this particular day, was gin. Soon, everyone in town wanted their Americano "the Negroni way," and here we are. History!
But What Is a Negroni and Why Is It So Great?
Many a bartender will quickly and unhesitatingly identify the negroni as their favorite cocktail. But why? Is it because it's easy to make? Easy to remember the measurements (one part gin to one part vermouth to one part Campari)? Made with ingredients that are relatively easy to come by? Or is it something more complicated?
Sometimes, ordering a negroni is just a big relief for everyone. The bartender is relieved (or should be—this cocktail order functions as a good litmus test. If your bartender doesn't know how to make a negroni ... find a new bar.) because the order is a simple and respectable one. You're relieved because you know exactly what you're getting, and you're about to be drinking something so perfectly balanced—sweet, a little herbaceous, bitter, and refreshing. What could possibly be better than a negroni when you're not sure what exactly you're in the mood for?
The answer is nothing. Order that negroni. Or mix one up yourself at home and impress your friends.
What you need:
- 1 part gin
- 1 part Campari
- 1 part sweet vermouth (such as Carpano Antica or Punt e Mes)
Pour ingredients in a mixing glass and fill with ice. Stir briskly for about 10 seconds, and strain either over ice in a rocks glass or into a coupe (if serving up). Garnish with an orange peel, expressed over the top and rubbed along the rim of the glass.
Congratulations! You now know how to make a negroni! Celebrate by making yourself another. You deserve it.
The Probability of Acquired Tastes
One last thing about the negroni. Most everyone will agree it's an acquired taste. Kind of like what dads tell kids about beer, but it's completely true. The bitterness and complex series of checks and balances that take place inside this seemingly simple cocktail can be difficult to, ahem, swallow.
Newbies, have no fear! Variations on this simple classic do, of course, exist. Top it with prosecco in place of the gin, or use Aperol (Campari's gentler, lower-ABV cousin) to soften the edges of the cocktail's bitterness. You can also play with the measurements of the three components, adding a little more vermouth to make it sweeter or more gin to make it, well, boozier.