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.