Simon Difford and Karen Fick at Difford’s Guide have written up a beautifully researched article about the origin of the Negroni, which totally changed the way I see the drink.
You should definitely check it out.
- The popular myth
Camillo Negroni walks into a bar in Florence, Italy, and orders an Americano, but with an extra kick. The Bartender achieved this by replacing the club soda with gin. Count Negroni became known for this order, and the drink became known as the Negroni.
Why it’s not true
Colonel Hector Andres Negroni is very clear that Count Camillo never existed. The Negroni genealogy has been recorded back to the 11th century, and he simply doesn’t appear in it.
- Where was it really invented?
It’s reported that French general Pascal Olivier de Negroni invented a version of it in Africa during the Franco-Prussian war of 1870.
This is another story. There is no solid evidence for it, though we do at least know the general existed.
The earliest printed negroni recipe known to us at this time is from 1949, and was made with half campari, and half 50/50 gin and vermouth (the type of vermouth is not specified).
When one traces back recipes similar to the negroni, it seems clear that drink was called a campari mixte as early as 1929, and the word “negroni” didn’t appear until later.
Furthermore, the Boulevardier (Bull-uh-vahrd-ee-AY) was published in 1927, and is nearly identical to a negroni, except for the bourbon substitution in place of gin.
Another possible culprit is an old favorite book of mine, “Modern American Drinks,” from 1895, which lists the Dundorado Cocktail, which if you squint at it sideways, looks like a negroni.
- We will never be certain about the true origins of the negroni, but we can be certain that it is the essence of all that is both challenging and rewarding about spirits.