I have written about the Camparinete/Negroni Cocktail before. Since that time, the bar lore of an Italian count in 1919, or later in cowboy boots, has deepened. But, I have noticed something that was always right in front of me that predates the earliest possible dates associated with the Camparinete/Negroni Cocktail.
In 1895, in Chicago, George Kappeler published a recipe for the Dundorado Cocktail. Here it is:
Now, we know that the traditional, brown vermouth wine with the caramelized sugar in it (called ‘rosso’ or ‘rouge’ today) was previously called “Italian vermouth.” The old tom gin in the above recipe is the predecessor to London dry gin and is closely related to it, albeit sweeter. That leaves the question of the bitters. Campari, the most widely-known cinchona bitters of all time, is found in the later Camparinete Cocktail (a.k.a. Negroni Cocktail). Calisaya bitters were (and are again) also cinchona bitters – featuring Cinchona calisaya. Campari features Cinchona officinalis. Calisaya bitters are a bit less-sweet than Campari bitters. With this in mind, we find that the Dundorado Cocktail is very close to the Camparinete Cocktail, differing only in which type of London-style gin it is based upon, which variant of cinchona bitters it is bittered with, and in the proportion of those bitters to the other liquors.
It appears that whoever created the first Camparinete Cocktail, and whoever adapted the Negroni Cup into a cocktail (making it identical to the Camparinete Cocktail) was only, in effect, customizing a drink that was at least twenty-four years older (and that’s only if you believe that there was a Negroni in 1919 that was a cocktail instead of the more-likely cup).
The Dundorado Cocktail, itself, is clearly just an adaptation of the Martini Cocktail of the 1890’s, made by using cinchona bitters instead of orange bitters. Furthermore, the Martini Cocktail (or Martinez Cocktail) was adapted from the Manhattan Cocktail by using gin instead of whiskey. Finally, the Manhattan Cocktail was adapted from the Whiskey Cocktail (or the Fancy Whiskey Cocktail) by using vermouth wine to sweeten it instead of sugar or sugar syrup. To describe any of those classic drinks along the continuum from Manhattan Cocktail to Negroni Cocktail as an ‘invention’ is nothing more than a mixologically-unenlightened stretch in promotion of the cult of personality.
Now, make a drink and just enjoy it.