How did the Negroni get its name? Well here at MicroBarBox we adore a good tale and there seems to be no shortage of intrigue when it comes to the origin of one of the most on-point cocktails of today; the Negroni.
There are two outstanding stories: Do you believe the Count Negroni or the General Negroni?
The more flamboyant story features one Count Camillo Negroni who (allegedly) was a Northern-Italian wide-boy from the early 20th Century. He seems to have a cracking back-story as he initially emigrated to the US (landing at Ellis Island) and spent time across the US with a variety of questionable careers: A New York banker, a cowboy in the Wild West, and then as a “Riverboat gambler and all round cad”. He returned to Florence just before prohibition was initiated.
Apparently it is questionable if he was a count at all!
The story goes that his local cocktail was the Milano-Torino, which was made up of Campari (from Milan) and Amaro Cora (from Turin). There was a popular variation on this drink called the Americano, apparently named so because many of the wealthy Americans traveling around Northern Italy at the time were requesting some soda water in their Milano-Torino, so the bar tenders named it the Americano; hugely unimaginative really.
The tale goes that when the Playboy Count was in the famous Casoni Bar in Florence (in 1919) he asked for a bit more of a punch to his Americano so the bartender switched the soda water for gin! It was a hit and people started asking for “one of count negroni’s drinks”, and that became the negroni!
The alternative tale features a bona-fide heroic cavalry officer who, if this story is true, invented the Negroni drink way before The Count Negroni was even in the US.
Noel Negroni (a current member of the Negroni Family) is pretty emphatic that there is no such Count Camillo Negroni in the family ancestry, and has waged a campaign to promote a different Negroni family member as the true origin of the drink.
Noel insists that one General Pascal Olivier Comte de Negroni was the inventor of the drink. Pascal was a career army man, born in Corsica, joined the French Army at 18 and was highly decorated from leading a number of escapades in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870.
Prior to the Franco-Prussian war he was a base commander in St Louis, Senegal (a port town just north of Dakar), and it was here that he supposedly invented his “vermouth-based cocktail”. There are a number of local reports from bar tenders and barmaids of a French Army Captain who was promoting a new drink at this time.
To cap it all off Noel has (allegedly) found a letter from Pascal to his brother Roche saying “…Incidentally, did you know that the vermouth-based cocktail that I invented in Saint Louis is a great hit at the Lunéville officers club?”. (Lunéville is a town in the east of France close to the German border and would have been a key French location in the war).
One or two additional reports give this a tad more romanticism by claiming Pascal created the cocktail as a labor of love between him and his wife to celebrate their marriage.
So there seems to be no question that it was named after a Negroni family member… but which one? The Scoundrel Count, or the Chivalrous General?