The next time you visit Florence, Italy, take a moment to stroll down Via Tornabuoni. It might seem like an ordinary street. The newly opened “Caffe Lietta” might look like an ordinary bar. In actuality, though, you’re strolling by the birthplace of a legendary cocktail — the beloved Negroni.
“Caffe Lietta” is the newest version of a bar that’s stood in the same place in 1815. Known back then as Caffe Casoni, the bar was favoured by the Florentine aristocracy as well as British and American tourists.
What happened on the day the Negroni was born? Who invented it? And how did it spread throughout the globe to become one of the most beloved cocktails of all time?
Keep reading to learn all about the origins of the popular drink (and how you can make your own at home).
The Muddled Origins of the Negroni
There are a few different versions of how the Negroni came to be. No one can say for sure which stories are true and which are mixed with legend, so we’ll let you be the judge.
The most widely accepted story goes something like this.
At the turn of the 20th century, there was a flamboyant count named Camillo Negroni. A Florentine Native, he travelled to the US and spent years as an adventurer, banker, and riverboat gambler.
Upon his return to Italy in 1910, he became a regular customer at Caffe Casoni. The bartender, Fosco Scarselli, became a good friend and would always have Negroni’s favourite drink, the Americano, waiting for him.
Traditionally, the Americano is a mix of sweet vermouth, bitters, and soda water. On one fateful day, Negroni asked Scarselli to add some gin to his drink to make it stronger. Other customers soon started to order “Negroni’s cocktails” — and the rest is history.
A Tale of Two Counts
Members of the Negroni family have emphatically stated that “there is no Count Camillo Negroni” anywhere in their lineage, which stretches back to the 11th century. In fact, they credit the invention of the drink to Count Pascal Olivier de Negroni while he was stationed in West Africa.
What do the historical records show? This is where the story really gets interesting.
Recent research has unearthed that there were in fact two Count Negronis at the turn of the twentieth century.
Count Pascal Negroni was a French General who fought in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. During a social gathering, he introduced his friends to his famous vermouth-based cocktail, now believed to be the “original” Negroni. This branch of the family supposedly has letters supporting their claim.
However, Count Pascal Negroni died in 1913, six years before the drinks supposed invention in Florence.
What about the “Cowboy Count” Camilo Negroni? Researchers have found records for a man named Cammillo Luigi Manfredo Maria Negroni, born in Florence in 1868. Further records show he travelled to America at the age of 29 and became a fencing instructor in New York City.
So far, no evidence has been produced to show that Camilo Negroni was ever a riverboat gambler or a cowboy. Nor can we say for certain if he is the same Negroni who later befriended Fosco Scarselli at Caffe Casoni in 1919.
All we know for sure is that there were two Count Negronis alive at the turn of the last century. One of them could have been the inventor of the Negroni cocktail.
Or, perhaps the real story has already been lost to the pages of time. It’s no wonder that books have been written in the quest for the truth about the Negroni.
How to Make an Amazing Negroni Cocktail
Historians may not agree on who invented the Negroni, but there’s one thing we can all agree on: the drink itself.
To make your own Negronis at home, you can order a speciality cocktail kit or assemble the following ingredients:
- Sweet vermouth
- Bitter aperitif (such as Campari or VEVE)
- Orange twist
The classic Negroni recipe calls for equal parts (30ml / 1 ounce) of each liquor. Stir over ice and strain into a cocktail tumbler with fresh ice to serve. Garnish with an orange wedge or a twist of orange peel.
The original recipe is perfect as-is, but there are plenty of fun variations you can try as well.
For example, the “Coffee Negroni” features a dash of coffee liquor as a unique after-dinner drink. There’s also the “Negroni Sbagliato,” which substitutes sparkling wine in place of the gin.
If you’re looking for more inspiration, you’ll be happy to hear that some of Australia’s best bartenders are putting their own twist on this classic cocktail. Unique versions of the Negroni have popped up from Brisbane to Melbourne and every city in-between.
Whether you try an updated version or stick with the original recipe, you’ll never go wrong sipping on a chilled Negroni cocktail.
Negronis & More: Make Classic Drinks at Home
We may never know the exact origin of the Negroni. Until more research comes to light, we’ll have to be content with these fascinating tales of mysterious counts and Florentine bartenders.
Until then, you have plenty of great talking points for your next cocktail party!
Speaking of which, is your home bar stocked and ready to go? Rather than making a run to the nearest liquor store, why not have everything you need delivered right to your front door?
As our name suggests, The Cocktail Shop is your one-stop destination for making the finest craft cocktails at home. Our cocktail kits include only the finest Australian liquors and are perfect for personal or corporate gifting.
Click here to view our complete collection of cocktail kits, including everyone’s favourite — the classic Negroni.