Cocktails From Around The World: The Negroni - Long May It Reign!

The Negroni Cocktail
Many people with an affinity to a particular food or beverage become interested in its history and evolution, and cocktail aficionados are no exception. If your drink of choice is the Negroni and you’d like an attention-grabbing story to add to the repertoire of your happy hour chatter, you’re in luck! You’ll leave your bar mates impressed when you recount the tale of how the Negroni came to be.

Campari: The Beginning
Those who know their drinks are familiar with the profound simplicity of the Negroni recipe – one part Campari, one part gin, one part vermouth. So the beginning of the Negroni really begins with the advent of Campari, the sweet Italian aperitif.

In the 1860s, a young –only fourteen, in fact – bartender from Turin, Italy named Gaspare Campari began experimenting with creating his own liqueurs. One concoction composed of over 60 ingredients became his special project, and he worked on different combinations of fruits and spices to make it the perfect blend of sweet and tart. Once perfected, he began serving it to his customers and it quickly became popular. Twenty five years later, Mr. Campari had created a booming enterprise from the sale of the elixir that bore his name.

Little could Mr. Campari have known that two generations later another Italian would use his creation to give rise to what would become one of their motherland’s most popular cocktails.

The Negroni Is Born

This history of the Negroni is somewhat less clear than that of Campari, but legend has it that one of Florence’s most notorious Lotharios, a count by the name of Camillo Negroni, requested that his bartender create a variation of his favorite cocktail, the Americano. This was the early twentieth century, a time of great political turmoil in Italy, especially Florence, so Count Negroni was looking for something with a little more bite.

In a moment of ingenuity, his server nixed the club soda that’s traditionally included in an Americano and added some gin to the glass. The count was impressed with the creation and it became his regular drink. Before long, other people were requesting the modified Americano as well. The Negroni was born, and it has been one of the most commonly imbibed cocktails in Italy ever since.

Modern Iterations

The conventional Negroni is light, crisp, and slightly bitter, yet sweet enough to keep the mouth from puckering. These qualities make the unadulterated Negroni an international favorite, but the rise in of creative cuisine in recent years has bred a few spin-offs of the classic Negroni.

One common variation uses vodka instead of gin and another also replaces the gin, but with sparkling wine. Many fashionable bars offer their own twist on the Negroni; for example, Fiola, a trendy Washington, D.C. hotspot, boasts a drink known as the Negroni d’Amore, which is a blend of Old Tom gin, Barolo Chinato (a dark wine), and Kina L'Avion D'Or (an aperitif).

However, many cocktail purists insist that no facsimile, regardless of how delicious, can serve as a stand-in for the time-honored, traditional Negroni. Given its rich flavor and history, it’s understandable that the cocktail has persisted in popularity over so many decades, and will surely enjoy a place on our drink menus for years to come. To the Negroni: long may it reign!

About the Guest Writer:
Angie Picardo is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance site dedicated to helping people master the art of money management, whether it’s developing an effective budget or finding the best credit cards for balance transfers. A cocktail enthusiast, she loves a good Negroni, but her drink of choice is an Old Fashioned.

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