The Confusing History of the Negroni



To celebrate Negroni Week here at Cocktails For You we decided to dive into the history of one of the most celebrated drinks of the modern era of cocktails - The Negroni! Loved by Italians everywhere & now enjoying a renaissance all over the world as the trend lean towards Aperitif style drinks everywhere. Although there is a definitive story being marketed by the likes of Campari with regards to the definitive Negroni origin story as well as recipe as is with anything before the World Wars you need to take it with a pinch of salt. We traced the inter webs on most information about the infamous Negroni & found a fantastic piece by Alex Hecht debating the history. Let us explore...

 

Debated Origins History tends to split itself in two different directions when it comes to the founder of the now modern classic & specifically gravitates towards two very specific figures - Count Camillo Negroni, or General Pascal Olivier de Negroni de Cardi, Comte de Negroni. The first account is supported by anecdotal evidence. The second is … also supported by anecdotal evidence, but heavily supported by a direct confirmed descendant of Pascal de Negroni.



Camillo Negroni In 1892, aboard the steamship Fulda, a Florentine named Conte Camillo Negroni arrived in the United States at the port of Ellis Island. His provenance as a count is up for debate, as was his job: accounts of Count Negroni as a banker, cowboy, and prominent riverboat gambler are well known in the bartending world (despite their dubious veracity). Supposedly, Count Negroni entreated local bartender Fosco Scarselli (of the now defunct Caffé Casoni) to strengthen his beloved Americano by replacing the soda with gin and serving it short, instead of as a highball. Very little evidence exists to support Count Negroni’s claim to his (supposedly) eponymous cocktail, but another Florentine, Lucca Picchi, in his book “On the trail of the Count: The True Story of the Negroni Cocktail” references a letter from 1920 wherein one Frances Harper of Chelsea writes:

My Dear Negroni: You say you can drink, smoke, and I am sure laugh, just as much as ever. I feel you are not much to be pitied! You must not take more than 20 Negronis in one day!

Not exactly a convincing story. There’s one more bit of evidence in Count Negroni’s favor, but we’ll get to that later.


 


In recent years, a verified descendant of the Negroni family, Noel Negroni, has built a case for his ancestor’s founding of the cocktail, citing the lack of a Count Camillo Negroni on the Negroni family tree, Noel states that the cocktail’s founder is in fact General Pascal Olivier de Negroni de Cardi, a Corsican by birth, who was born in the island’s Castle of San Colombano in 1829. Pascal Negroni’s life is significantly more interesting than Count Negroni, as Pascal was a bona-fide cavalry officer and decorated veteran of the Franco-Prussian War.