All the Missing Negronis


1950C_Page_01

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).

1950C_Page_05

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.

7 thoughts on “All the Missing Negronis

  1. Hi Andrew,

    Hope all is well by you!

    Can you fix the “From” of your emails being “WordPress.com” to your name or elementalmixology, or something?

    BTW, I still use my knowledge I gained from your class back in L.A.! Fantastic! If you are ever in Providence, RI, drop me an email or text me and we’ll go have a proper drink.

    Best regards,

    Jacques

    1. Hello Jacques,
      I will try to figure out how to change the “from” in the blog post notifications in WordPress. I just looked cursorily and failed. I will devote more time to that later.
      Cheers!

  2. It might not be significant but, then again, it might. The page you posted from the Cinzano Cocktail book is in Spanish, not Italian. That doesn’t invalidate your argument but it weakens it. Since it originates from an Italian company, it probably reflects their position. However, there is a small chance that it was prepared for a market that had different tastes.

    1. Thank you! I don’t know how I missed that. Scanning for ingredients and measurements, I should have noticed that it was a little too easy for me to understand. I have a working-process familiarity with both Latin and Spanish, but less-so with Italian. I have modified the article accordingly.

  3. Yes, but the fact that there are both American (U.S.A.) and Italian drinks throughout the book would make it very odd that the drink people think of as ‘the Negroni’ today existed as a known Italian drink would be excluded while equally non-Argentine staples of the U.S.A., Italy and Britain, such as the Americano (two versions), Gin Fizz, Brandy Daisy, Torino Cocktail, Perfect Cocktail, Brandy Sour, Brandy Fizz, Gin Fizz, Saratoga Cocktail, Genovese Cocktail, and on and on, are included. The conclusion is clear. The drink we think of when we say “Negroni” is really a drink in essence first called the Camparinete. The original Negroni of the late 1940’s in Italy was made with something like 3 fl-oz. of vermouth wine, 0.5 fl-oz. each of gin and Campari, with about 1.5 fl-oz. of soda water and served on the rocks as a ‘spritz’ which is simply the Italian re-naming of the English cup. It shows fascinating migration from the Anlgo-Italian form of a cup or spritz to the American form of a cocktail, as we know the drink today ― making it essentially the same as the older Camparinete Cocktail that I suspect was originally made in either Paris of the 1920’s, or perhaps even in North Beach San Francisco or New York or some other part of the U.S.A. where Italian was understood just before 1920. Campari bitter was used in other true cocktails in the U.S.A. back into the 1890’s. Like the famous Martini Cocktail of the same time period, the Camparinete (or, Negroni, if we must) is based on gin and sweetened with vermouth wine and bittered. The Camparinete just uses a different bitters, Campari. The mythology and assumed historicity of the so-called Negroni is a great example of how we stopped understanding the mixological meaning of the word cocktail and how changing terms causes us to create and believe in new narratives.

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