Convoluted, almost detective story of the Negroni cocktail

Let the simplicity of the recipe not mislead you, because the origin story is quite confusing.

It all begins in 1919, when a certain such Count Negroni was born, who had a reputation as a regular visitor to Casonis Vag (later Caffe Giacosa) in Florence. On one visit he asked to make it Americano a little tighter, then the bartender Fosco Scarelli decided to replace the soda with gin, and this combination became a permanent order of the count. The rest of the bar’s guests soon began asking for “Count Negroni’s drink”, and soon, simplifying, it became known simply as Negroni.


flaming discontent count returned to Florence when the Dry Law went into effect in America, banning him from his favorite cowboy-style pastime in the Wild West. He moved his favorite drink to his homeland. To distinguish from Americano, his cocktail was decorated with a slice of orange.

This story is quite romantic if it weren’t for one but. Historian Hector Andres Negroni, after researching their genealogical tree, argues that a character like Count Negroni never existed.


true inventor of the cocktail is General Pascal Oliver de Negroni. The historian made this remark like a customer review on to a book by Luca Picchi called Sulle tracce del conte, La vera storia del cocktail Negroni.

The article New Evidence Negroni was Invented in Africa – Sorry Italy, published by Drinking Cup, narrates the story of General Pascal Oliver de Negroni who participated in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. At one of the dinner parties, he invented the “cocktail on the vermouth”, which was the origin of the Negroni cocktail.

And the earliest published recipe is in the book E1 Bar: Evolution y arte del cocktail, authorised by Jacinto Sanfeliu Brucarts in 1949. It contained the following formulation: 1/4 gin, 1/4 Italian vermouth, 1/2 Campari.

However, many earlier than different versions of Negroni appeared in print, there were cocktails that are extremely similar to Negroni, and in one absolutely the same. For example.

Doug Ford, on his Cold Glass blog, wrote: “There is a precursor to Negroni, called Camparinete. His first publication was found in a Boothby book called World Drinks and How to Mix Them. The recipe formula contained an ounce of gin, half an ounce of Italian vermouth and the same amount of Campari.”

Or – Jim Meehan in PDT’s Cocktail Book wrote that “a combination of gin, sweet vermouth and Campari has appeared in French and Spanish cocktail books such as Cien Cocktailsv and L’Heure du Cocktail before Negroni became versatile and famous.”

But most captivating of all is the recipe for Campari Mixte in the aforementioned L’heure du Cocktail, written in 1929, which indicates equal proportions of Campari, gin and sweet vermouth with decorating a twist made of lemon zest, which exactly repeats the recipe known to us Negroni. It is the earliest recipe for a drink with the same ingredients and in the same proportions as Negroni, but with a different name.

Two years earlier, however, the Boulevardier cocktail prepared for Erstine Gwynne by bartender Harry McElhone at his Harry’s NY Wag in Paris came to light. His recipe was described in the book Barflies and Cocktails in 1927. Gwynne was an American émigré, a secular personality, nephew of a railroad magnate and, most importantly in our history, editor of The Boulevardier, a newspaper that gave the name to a cocktail. Boulevardier’s recipe: 1.5 parts bourbon, 1 part sweet vermouth, 1 part Campari, which is extremely similar to Negroni with only the difference: gin replaced by bourbon.

To bring even more confusion: George Kappeeler in the Dundorado cocktail, published in Modern American Drinks in Chicago, sees a reference to Negroni in the recipe. The composition of Dundorado Cocktail: 1.5 ounces Gin Tom, 1.5 ounces Italian vermouth and 2 dash bitters Calisaya. The last ingredient is nothing more than bitter based on the bark of hinwood, but slightly less sweetness than Campari.

Now we’ll figure out the recipe. The cocktail has a glowing red hue. It manages to be both complex and incredibly simple. The widest range of flavors creates a wonderful aperitif popular around the world and is a tribute to etiquette during the aperitif hour in Milan.

“ The cocktail may include one of a thousand variations of various gins and any sweet vermouth, variations of which are quite a lot to date. But if you want to recreate the real Negroni, then a component like Campari remains unchanged,” Gaz Regan notes.

And further: “You can create a variation on this cocktail using any other amaro, but without Campari it just won’t be Negroni.”

Confirmation of this can be found with Luca Picchi in the book Negroni Cocktail: “Do not forget that during the second half of the 19th century other bitters were represented on the market, equally noteworthy, namely Gamondi, Moroni, Martini, Bonomelli. But none of them, with a certain commercial reputation, were able to resist Campari’s entrepreneurial power.”

Most formulations indicate an equal ratio of parts of the components included in the Negroni composition. Gary Regan in 2003 in The Joy of Mixology states that “it is not worth experimenting with proportions, because balance is paramount and the use of equal parts is absolutely necessary to achieve of perfect taste.”

However, in 2012 Gary became a Gaz and stated that “you can hit me on the hands if you don’t get a good drink without keeping an equal parts ratio.”


correct method of cooking is the stir.

Negroni is not at all suitable for the bustle of alcohol in a shaker. It is preferable to pour ingredients on ice and make a stir in a glass of serving.

But you can follow the example of Gaz Regan and simply make a stir with your finger in the glass (however, not when serving anyone).


decoration of Negroni is a sleeve of orange zest or a slice of orange. The use of lemon zest is considered a felony.


number of variations of this cocktail will suffice for a separate article. Changing one of the components you can get an absolutely different drink. Whether it’s Tegroni or Pisconi, where gin is replaced with tequila and pisco. Or the addition of the classic recipe by some nuance, such as dash Fernet Branca in the Inferno cocktail.

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