It’s no secret: I love my cocktails, and I’ve been having a love affair with Negronis for some time now. But when I booked a trip this past fall to Florence, Italy, I had no idea I would be traveling to its homeland, the location of the creation of my cocktail of choice.
When I walked into the Atrium Bar at Four Seasons Florence, I had no clue I’d be learning Negroni history and sample tastings that evening. Boy was I in for a major treat getting to experience it firsthand.
So there I was in a loungy bar in the beautiful Four Seasons Florence being served by the handsome Luca, head bartender and winner of the prestigious award for Italian Barman of the Year 2012. Not too shabby for a cocktail lover. To top it off, this ultra-cool bar also has its own Negroni cart where they mix you whatever Negroni version you prefer right there at your table.
While Luca did his mixing magic he told the story of how the Negroni was born in Florence in 1920. At that time, the cocktail "Americano" was very popular. A particular Italian playboy, Count Camillo Negroni, wanted the barman at Café Casoni to add gin to the concoction and thus, the drink took on the name Negroni.
Now for the fun stuff. An Americano is half Campari and half vermouth, and a Negroni is one-third gin, one-third Campari, and one-third vermouth. But Luca didn’t mix-master any old typical Negroni, however, he made three versions.
One version was known as Old Style, a variation of Negroni using the oldest products out there: Beefeater Gin from 1820, Carpano Antica Formula Vermouth from 1786, and China Clementi Bitter from 1884, garnished with an orange peel. Another version was called the Valentino and was a combination of Hendricks Gin, Carpano Antica Formula Vermouth, Campari, garnished with a cucumber slice and an orange peel. The third was Camillo, the namesake of the inventor, made with gin, white port, and Prato Vermouth, garnished with an orange slice and caper berries.
Sometimes travel can yield the unexpected pleasure of learning about something that has always been your favorite. Learning where Negronis came from only adds to my love of them.