Three years ago Campari and Imbibe Magazine teamed up to launch Negroni Week, a seven-day cocktail celebration that’s also a charity drive. When Negroni Week first launched, 100 venues participated. Last year that number grew to around 3,500 bars and restaurants across 44 countries, and the promotion raised more than $320,000 for charities worldwide. If you’d like to participate with your bar from June 6 to June 12, click here to register.
If you’ve never had a Negroni, don’t know about the Negroni, or are concerned your guests won’t know about this classic cocktail, we’re here to help. The Negroni is a simple but flavorful combination of equal parts gin, vermouth rosso (a red, semi-sweet vermouth), and Campari. It’s traditionally served in a rocks glass and garnished with an orange peel.
The Negroni, just like other classic cocktails, comes with its very own hazy origin story. The tale that’s accepted most broadly centers around Florence, Italy in 1919 and an Italian count. According to this story, Count Camillo Negroni asked a bartender at Caffè Casoni to add some kick to the Americano he was known to favor. That bartender, Fosco Scarselli, replaced the soda with gin, garnished the drink with an orange peel to distinguish it from the Americano (which uses a lemon peel), and a new cocktail was born. The drink became so popular that the Negroni family founded Negroni Distillerie and produced a ready-to-drink version called Antica Negroni 1919. Orson Welles would later say of the Negroni, “The bitters are excellent for your liver, the gin is bad for you. They balance each other.”
When enough time passes, just about every story gets tweaked, and some of them face controversy. The Negroni origin story is no different. The first bit of “controversy” is that, according to a historian who did some digging, Camillo Negroni was not a count. His grandfather Luigi Negroni certainly was, but it’s unclear whether or not Camillo ever held the title. The second bit of controversy is much more serious, and far more interesting. Descendants of General Pascal Olivier de Negroni, Count de Negroni, claim that he created the cocktail in Senegal in 1857, 62 years before Camillo Negroni is thought to have done. Yet another descendant has said that the general invented the Negroni in 1914.
The true, unadulterated origin of the Negroni may never be known. What we do know, however, is that it’s an icon in the cocktail world, and that Negroni Week is a fun opportunity to give back.
Here is the original recipe for the Negroni, the star of Negroni Week. Swap out the gin for sparkling white wine or Prosecco to make the Negroni sbagliato.
Want to make the Hanky-Panky? Replace the Campari with a couple dashes of Fernet Branca.
The Boulevardier also some enjoys some controversy, with some saying it’s just a riff on the Negroni and others saying it’s its own cocktail. You be the judge.
The Americano (may have) started us on our journey towards Negroni Week.