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Cocktail History

A Brief History of the Negroni

A classic Negroni. © Tina Rupp

Once consumed primarily by old-school drinkers in the know, the bitter, boozy Negroni has become a cocktail menu fixture with as many variations as there are bottles in a bar. To celebrate Negroni Week, here’s a quick look at the classic Campari drink’s journey from a café in Florence to every bar in the US.

1919, The Beginning: The story of the Negroni begins at the Caffè Casoni in Florence. There’s no documented historical account, but it is believed by cocktailians that Count Camillo Negroni invented the drink when he ordered an Americano made with gin in place of the usual soda water. It was a success and not long after, the Negroni family founded the Negroni distillery, which produced a ready-to-drink version of the cocktail that they called Antico Negroni 1919.

1947, Word Spreads: Orson Welles made one of the first documented remarks about the cocktail. He tried one while on location in Rome and commented to the Coshocton Tribune, “The bitters are excellent for your liver, the gin is bad for you. They balance each other.”

1967, The First Variation: Bar Basso, a bar in Milan, is credited with the invention of the Negroni Sbagliato (“mistaken Negroni”), a sparkling take on the Negroni made with Prosecco instead of gin. Legend has it that someone ordered a Negroni from a way-too-busy bartender who grabbed a bottle of Prosecco without looking, thinking it was gin. The customer loved it.

2002, The White Negroni: British cocktail expert Wayne Collins is credited with creating the first white Negroni by swapping in Lillet Blanc and Suze for sweet vermouth and Campari.

2010, The Barrel-Aged Negroni: Jeffrey Morgenthaler, of Portland, Oregon’s Clyde Common, was one of the first to successfully barrel-age cocktails. He started with Manhattans but quickly jumped to Negronis, which he aged in whiskey barrels from New York’s Tuthilltown distillery.

2013, Negroni Week: Capitalizing on the bittersweet Negroni spell that the country was under, Campari and Imbibe magazine joined forces to introduce National Negroni Week. The annual June celebration encourages bars across the country to serve their take on Negronis and donate a portion of the profit from those cocktails to a charity of their choice.

Related: Celebrate Negroni Week with These 3 Perfect Versions
12 Great Campari Cocktails
23 Classic Cocktails

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