In the Cucina with La Gazzetta: The Classic Italian Cocktail: The Negroni

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dalla cucina di Joni Lucarino

Now deceased, celebrity chef, author, and TV star, Anthony Bourdain, called the traditional Negroni, the “perfect drink” saying, “It’s three liquors that I am not particularly interested in but put them together with a slice of orange…it works. That first sip is confusing and not particularly pleasant. But, man, it grows on you”.

That unique flavor profile, which comes from the gin and the bitters, makes it strong and punchy, giving credence to the phrase “it’s an acquired taste”!

In classic mixology, the traditional Negroni is equal parts gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari, a red bitter liqueur known as an aperitif or appetite stimulant. This cocktail is typically served in a rocks glass with plenty of ice, the three liquors stirred, and then garnished with a twist of orange peel.

The origins of this drink, as the story goes, came in 1919 when Count Camilo Negroni returned to Italy after living in America as a rodeo cowboy and a riverboat gambler. While in Florence at the Caffe Casoni, he asked the bartender, Forsco Scarselli, to strengthen his “Americano” cocktail. Replacing the soda water and the twist of lemon with gin and an orange twist, he created the Negroni. Due to its popularity, the Count then opened the Negroni Distillery where pre-made mixes were bottled and sold. 

The two most popular variations of this drink are the Negroni Sbagliato and the Classic White Negroni. The Negroni Sbagliato (“sbagliato” translates to “mistake”) was created by Mirko Stocchetti at Milan’s Bar Basso when he “mistakenly” poured a sparkling wine, such as Prosecco, in place of the gin. This drink is made up of equal parts sweet red vermouth, Campari and Prosecco served “on the rocks” (with ice) in a rocks glass or served “straight up” (no ice) in a tall flute with plenty of Prosecco to top it off, both garnished with a citrus twist of your choice. This brought the alcohol content down from 24 percent to 13 percent.

The second variation, the classic White, followed the same formula of equal parts liquor but with gin, Suze, and Lillet Blanc, garnished with a lemon twist. This made it a lighter, more floral, sweeter cocktail.

A star from the TV series, “Game of Thrones”, brought notoriety to the Negroni Sbagliato in America when in an interview she stated it was her favorite cocktail. You know what happens when something goes viral on social media. In 2021 it was named “Cocktail of the Year” by one news source. Of course, since then, the trending cocktail has already been replaced with yet another creation by yet some other mixologist.

What is nice is that when you order a cocktail in Italy they serve it with little bowls of snack foods, such as chips and nuts, so you aren’t drinking on an empty stomach. I remember a time when they did that here in America. 

The first thing I am going to try when I return to Italy is a Negroni…but I may have to go for the less alcoholic version, the Negroni Sbagliato! 


Cucina Sept1