All the Missing Negronis

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Above: the cover of Cinzano’s 1950 ‘Cocktail’ [sic] book.

I always tell students that the drink people call the Negroni might not be from Italy and the original name of the drink surely wasn’t “Negroni.” The original (and proper) name for the drink is the Camparinete Cocktail of the 1920’s. I have searched for drinks in Italian sources that are either essentially the same as the 1920’s Camparinete that you all call ‘Negroni’, or are the cup (or spritz) based on plenty of vermouth wine (but only slightly fortified by gin and Campari bitters) and a good shot of soda water in it and served on the rocks that appeared in Italy around 1950 as the Negroni and was the first drink to have that name. That is why it isn’t actually strange that a book Cinzano published in 1950 to promote their products contains neither the true Negroni Cup nor the older Camparinete Cocktail that fits the form of what people call ‘Negroni’ today. The book contains drinks that originated on both sides of the Atlantic. If there were a drink made with any amount of vermouth wine in called Negroni that was already popular on either side of the Atlantic, Cinzano would surely have included it. Plenty of drinks are in the book, but not the Camparinete or Negroni (in name or essence).

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Above: one of the many pages of the book.

“Dude, maybe it was a copyright issue.”

Dude, maybe it was space aliens. Where is the copyright? Where is the pre-existing advertising making use of it? Stop grasping at straws. It’s just not there. No Italian books available for scrutiny before the Cinzano book have it, either. The drink does come from around then, but the early descriptions are all by Americans ― famously Orson Welles in 1947. The full description comes in the 1950’s and makes it clear that the drink is based on vermouth wine with only a little gin and Campari bitters and has plenty of soda water in it. The fact that Orson Welles only mentions a few ingredients in the interest of mentioning how those specific ingredients affect the health is not proof, nor even a strong suggestion, that they are the sum total of the drink.

If you don’t know that the drink was first known as the Camprinete and that the drink first known as Negroni is nothing like what you think it was, that’s fine with me. If you fail to understand that the Camparinete (that you will still bone-headedly call the ‘Negroni’) drink is simply a cocktail, and of a very standard form (fancy by way of aromatized wine as a flavor-modifying sweetener, like both the Manhattan and Martini cocktails ― other than that it’s just a spirit and some bitters and chilling dilution), that’s also fine… but there is no “Negroni family” of drinks. I don’t really expect any fine understanding among the hoi polloi. But if you pawn the so so-called ‘history of the Negroni’ that is simply repeated as it is without anyone (seemingly) doing their own critical research in primary sources, you remain uneducated and your narrative is of an inferior, second-hand nature.

Elemental Mixology – 2017 Edition

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Happy Holidays, everyone!

Work on the 2017 edition of the Elemental Mixology book is entering its final stages.

This will be the most significant reworking of the book since at least around 2011.

It will be available for order in the second half of December.

Gift certificates for the book may be ordered now.

http://www.elementalmixology.com/shop/book.html

Daily Tipple – the Gin Puff

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The oldest extant reference to this nineteenth-century drink is in a Chicago newspaper from 1883, where it is mentioned by a bar-tender as being popular.
It has been a favorite drink in Elemental Mixology posset sessions for the past three or four years.
Recently, the puff, as a form of drink with a traditional family name, has been called the “lift” (by someone who clearly had no idea that they were ‘re-inventing the wheel’).

Go to the Elemental Mixology website for the recipe

A Good Drink that is Also Laughable

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I often chuckle while witnessing bar-tenders today mimicking advances in drink-making that were revolutionary in 1855 – and thinking them to be new.

One example is as using sugar syrup (instead of dry sugar) in true cocktails and stirring them cold through plenty of ice.

Today, bar-tenders imagine that applying the above methods to the Old-fashioned Whiskey Cocktail improves it. They are right – but the improvement was already done within a few years of 1855. It was then that method for making the Whiskey Cocktail were changed to take advantage of pure water and ice suddenly becoming cheap and plentiful, allowing for simple syrup to be cheap and plenty of ice to be available for stirring with and straining from.

Modern bar-tenders, you’re almost there. All you have to do now to catch up with 1855 is to strain your Whiskey Cocktail just as you would a Manhattan Cocktail – and, for the same reasons.

Of course, if you don’t know the traditional meaning of the word cocktail, you probably are a little lost here. Come take my classes.

Suffice it to say that once the Whiskey Cocktail was made with sugar syrup and stirred with ice and strained into a goblet for a perfectly cold drink that would never get further diluted, the older, inferior way of making the Whiskey Cocktail produced the drink that after 1855 was called the Old-fashioned Whiskey Cocktail.

Yes, I am saying the the Old-fashioned Whiskey Cocktail (probably just “Old Fashioned” to some benighted readers) is inferior to the Whiskey Cocktail. Between 1860 and 1900, the Whiskey Cocktail, made the modern way and strained and served without any ice, was one of the most commonly-served drink in American bars. It was served more commonly during those forty years than the Old-fashioned Whiskey Cocktail. What a shame that the inferior of the two is the only one that is easy to obtain in our own time.

Now modern bar-tenders are making the Whiskey Cocktail almost as good as it was in 1855 (if only they would stop serving it on ice) and imagining that this is something new and the product of sensitive consideration. It is laughable.

Likewise devoid of any traditional knowledge is the imagining that there is something new – down to giving it a new typological name – to the so-called Lift.

Truth be told, this type of drink goes at least as far back as 1883. An American bar-tender from then would look at the so-called Bourbon Lift and recognize it to be an especially-fancy reworking of the Bourbon Puff. If had I been the bar-tender that created it, I would have made clear through naming it that I understood American mixological tradition and history enough to call if a Puff – instead of making up a new name that suggests ignorance of tradition. I also would have understood it to be far too fancy to just call it the Bourbon Puff. I might have called it the Special Bourbon Puff or maybe the Bohemian Cowboy Puff. But a plain name for a fancy drink, combined with an obvious ignorance of American drink types (a consequence of the grasping overuse of ‘cocktail’), shrouds the publication of a very good drink in the mists of ignorance.