Happy Hour History: The Negroni

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The Negroni is a classic — a refreshing, well-balanced aperitif that combines sweet and bitter flavors with a kick. Plus, its history reads like a sketch from The Dean Martin Show. What’s not to love?

Florence, Italy, 1920-ish… Count Camillo Negroni strolls into Bar Casoni for a drink. He wants an Americano (another drink with its own interesting history), but the combination of Campari, sweet vermouth, and soda water isn’t going to cut it. He tells the bartender to use gin in place of the soda water.

You see Camillo was something of a badass — at least in his own mind. He had spent time in the American West riding the range and, according to some accounts, even worked as a rodeo cowboy. When he returned to Italy, he still dressed the part.

Another version of the history credits a different member of the Negroni family — General Pascal Olivier de Negroni, Count de Negroni — with inventing the cocktail on the eve of WWI. However, most sources, including this book«Negroni»/dp/8888719164 hold up the Count Camillo story as the definitive history.

The Negroni soon rose in popularity around Italy, so much so that the Negroni family began bottling a pre-made version of the cocktail. In 1947, Orson Welles took it mainstream in the States when he endorsed it declaring, “The bitters are excellent for your liver, the gin is bad for you. They balance each other.” Needless to say, this was one of Welles’ better endorsements.

Negroni Recipe
The recipe is simple, but getting the proportions right is essential; over pouring one ingredient even by a splash can throw the whole cocktail off balance.

Ingredients
1 oz Campari
1 oz sweet vermouth
1 oz gin

Directions: Add all of the ingredients into a tumbler filled with ice. Stir briefly, and garnish with an orange twist.

Variations
Substitute vodka for gin, and you have a Negroski, tovarisch.
Use bourbon or rye, and it’s a Boulevardier.
Add soda water to get a few extra miles out of it for refreshing summer sipping.
Serve it straight up in a martini glass, if that’s your thing.

Enjoy while listening to this. Happy trails, cowboys.

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