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Drunk History: Negroni

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It sets you up for dinner, in a way it makes you hungry, sands the edges off the afternoon. In an after dinner, it’s settling. It is both aperitif and digestive. It’s a rare drink that can do that.” Anthony Bourdain, Chef & Author.

The negroni we all know and love is a straightforward blend of Gin, Campari (which apparently is to Italy as Fish & Chips is to Britain), Sweet Vermouth in equal parts (the recommended amount being 20ml) and one fresh orange peel to garnish.

Looks can be deceiving… it may look like a sweet drink, but don’t be fooled its instagram-friendly ruby red exterior. Bold, tangy and classically bitter, the humble Negroni has worked itself up from height to height. But where did it all begin?

Count olaf

So the story centres around Italian Count Camillo Negroni. He lived as a cowboy, riverboat gambler and banker (of course) in America, where he picked up a taste for strong spirits and drinks, and then London, where the gin boom was thriving.

He then moved back to his hometown in Florence in 1919. With his colourful past and adventurous soul, it’s no huge surprise that he went on to do something big. Just so happens that his big thing was creating a world-renowned cocktail, which became an international bar menu staple - and go on to have an entire week dedicated to it. No biggie…

Anyway, one day, the Count popped into his local Café Casoni (now the Giacosa Café) and asked bartender and friend Forsco Sarsselli to add a bit more booze to his usual American, as on this occasion, it was a little lacking in "oomph" (maybe he’d just gotten a promotion? Maybe he was drowning his sorrows. No-one really knows). Sarsselli did as requested, replacing the soda water with gin and the lemon garnish with an orange peel.

The bitterness of the campari, the booziness of the gin and the herbaciousness (this is definitely a word) of the sweet vermouth married wonderfully over ice, creating a perfectly simple and well-balanced aperativo.

And voila! The negroni was born.

woman negroni

Things moved pretty swiftly thereafter, with punters coming to the bar asking for ‘the Negroni’ and the Count opening his Negroni Distillery the same year - which sold pre-batched Negronis, under the name 'Antico Negroni'.

Negroni factory

Today, 100 years later, we’ve had all sorts of variations from the original. From Boulevardiers (Bourbon instead of Gin), to Sbagliatos (sparkling wine instead of gin) to white negronis (Gin, Lillet Blanc & Suze), there’s all sorts out there. Plus, you can even out the bitterness by using Aperol instead of Campari, for a more mellow flavour.

The classic Negroni is here to stay on the menus of bars (reputable or otherwise) all over the world, and will continue to evolve - but one thing’s for sure, there’s no forgetting the original.

Have a scroll below to see some negroni-related products we love (including some pre-batched bottles)…

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