Negroni

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This week’s drink is the Negroni! I’ll admit I didn’t love my first Negroni, but now I can’t imagine why. Made with London dry gin, Campari and sweet vermouth, this Italian aperitif has a strong character and unique flavor that I’ve grown to love.  One Negroni leaves you wanting more.

Ingredients:
1 part London dry gin
1 part Campari
1 part Italian sweet vermouth

Directions:
Pour each ingredient over ice in an old-fashioned glass and stir. Garnish with an orange slice.

THE HISTORY:

The Negroni has a fun history I enjoyed learning at a Tales of the Cocktail panel dedicated to this classic cocktail. The Negroni originated in the early 1900s at a drugstore and perfumery in Florence called Casoni. To condense the story: an Italian aperitif cocktail was modified for American tourist tastes, and then that “touristy” drink was adapted into a stronger drink to please a playboy Count. The count’s name? Why, of course it’s Count Negroni.

The ritual of the aperitif in Italy was a way for coffee shops to keep customers from going home, according to panelist Livio Lauro, who is president of the US Bartenders Guild, a Negroni enthusiast and an Italian. They would say, “If you buy a drink, you get a free meal.” Aperitifs are drinks served before a meal to stimulate appetite.

The Casoni bar had been serving an aperitif called the Americano that got the nickname because so many Americans ordered it. It was made with Campari, sweet vermouth, seltzer water and a slice of lemon. Count Negroni asked the Casoni bartender, Fosco Scarselli, to make him an Americano that had more of a kick. So, Scarselli used London dry gin instead of seltzer. Count Negroni wanted to be able to tell the difference between the Americano and this new variation, so he asked the bartender to garnish it with an orange slice instead of lemon. That Negroni guy was quite a trend-setter and the drink spread.

This drink is made so many different ways: shaken, stirred, over ice, up, in a coupe, in an old-fashioned glass, with or without seltzer … and then there are the substitutions. It’s a flexible drink, but the panelists were all clear on one thing: It’s not a Negroni if you don’t use Campari.

Campari is a bitter aperitif with a sense of humor, if its ads are any indication:

As with any story, there’s more to it. Luca Picchi, who wrote a historic account (in Italian) of the Negroni’s creation, was on the panel. His book, “The True Story of the Negroni,” has been translated into English and will soon be available. Check it out (when you can find it). This guy knows EVERYTHING about Negronis.

Image courtesy of Gabi Porter.

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