Penelope is retired, but teaches English in Rome. She is a published feature writer, playwright and poet. She loves local Italian customs.
Why Is It Called a Negroni?
In the early 1920s, on a trip to England, Count Camillo Negroni took a liking to gin, which wasn't a very Italian drink. Upon returning to his local bar in Florence—the Caffe Casonia, popular with the aristocracy and American English tourists of the day—he asked his barman Fosco Scarselli to splash a little of it ("muscle it up a bit") into his usual morning cocktail—which until then had been 'Un Americano'.
He liked the drink. Bartender Fosco Scarselli liked the drink. Barman Scarselli perfected it and called the new cocktail the 'Negroni'.
Today the Negroni is by far one of Tuscany's most enjoyed famous bartender recipes.
- Old-fashioned glass full ice cubes
- 3 centilitres gin
- 3 centilitres campari
- 3 centilitres vermouth, sweet, red
- 1/2 orange, slice
Barman Fosco Scarselli
A famous Florentine barman during the flapper days, Fosco Scarselli served cocktails to the gentry and fun-loving people of Florence at a famous bar called Casoni.
When the bar changed hands and became Caffe Giocosa, Scarselli was no longer a part of it.
Instead, Count Gherardesca invited him to be the barman at his Golf Club dell'Ugolino in Impruneta, Florence where Scarselli spent the best part of forty years—and invented yet more famous cocktails such as the "19th hole" and the "Mercedes".
He was awarded a medal by his Italian barman profession (A. I. B. E. S) with the dedication:
"To Fosco Scarselli, the genius who invented the Negroni"
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Instructions How to Make a Negroni
- Put all the ice cubes in an old-fashioned glass.
- Chill the glass with them.
- Tip out any water.
- Add gin.
- Add Campari Bitter.
- Add sweet Vermouth (red).
- Stir with a cocktail spoon.
- Add a slice of orange.
- Serve immediately before the ice melts.
The Alcoholic Content
It's a potent cocktail with quite a high alcohol content.
Gin is 37.5 °
Vermouth Rosso (or Cinzano) is 14.4°
Campari Bitters is 25°
Mixed with the oxygen in the ice, it's a fast track to a pleasant happy hour high!
The Uffizi Cocktail Hour Boom with Negroni
During the summer months (May till October), you can buy a €12 ticket for a Thursday evening visit to the Terrace of the Ponente della Galleria wing of the Uffizi Gallery between 19.00-22.00, (or other venues).
The principal Terrace for the-cocktail-with-peanuts is called 'Loggia dei Lanzi', which hangs fifth- and sixth-century masterpieces by 'foreign' painters.
It's a good idea to telephone to reserve 055/294883. The initiative is a new and ever-more popular one. The terraces or venues to hang out at the museum to enjoy the art, the buzz and the Negronis is a changeable venue. There are already cocktail hours planned at 'Bargello', and at the 'Sala del Michelangelo e del Rinascimento Fiorentino'.
When Negroni Is Served
In Tuscany, a Negroni is the fun and fashionable drink to order, automatically. Getting together after work or at the weekend by the sea, by a pool, at beach parties, in the city squares, looking tan and beautiful, has become synonymous with the Negroni cocktail.
I don't drink myself, but when I asked a friend why everyone drinks Negroni in Tuscany, he explains it's the "perfect thirst-quenching kick of a flavorful drink, besides Campari and Vermouth are Italian aperitif drinks!"
Its herby, juniper flavors (gin) mixed in equal parts with the bitter taste of mysterious Campari, whilst sweetened in a densely cordial way with red vermouth makes it a culinary balancing act of tastes. Served cold on clinking ice, makes it seductive to hold and refreshing.
Its strong alcohol content makes it a high fix and because people move on to dinner, or to the evening elsewhere, it's a one-off drink. It sort of sets you up! One's enough!
The new frontier for popular gatherings is romantically at The Uffizi Gallery in Florence, on the terrace, just a few meters from Botticelli's Venere and the Ermafrodito (The Hermaphrodite). People socialize and chatter and drink Negroni celebrating their heritage (cocktail and art, both), perhaps proposing something romantic over Perseus's head, or while looking at masterpieces by Rubens or Velasquez, or Goya. Florence is where the Negroni comes from. Florence is where it is truly celebrated.
(Florence is Firenze in Italy).
Negroni Sbagliato (pronounced Zba ly ato) is a Negroni but it's a less alcoholic variation of Negroni.
Bartender Mirko Stocchetto created it in the 1960s in a Milan bar called Bar Basso. He substituted gin with spumante brut—and named it a Negroni Sbagliato. (Translated, the word 'sbagliato' means 'by mistake'). Bar Basso is the most popular evening social meeting ground for designers during Milan Design Week. Everyone who's anyone hangs out here.
The drink was an immediate success and in Italy, it's cool to ask for "Un Sbagliato, per favore!" (omitting the word Negroni).
A 'Sbagliato' is made in exactly the same way as a Negroni—same cold glass and same proportions, except that gin is replaced with spumante brut and perhaps a dash of Angostura bitters, if you like a bitterish flavored drink.
© 2012 Penelope Hart