Negroni classical

Our series on Classics stops in on the Negroni. How much of this old cocktail's yarn is true, we'll let cocktail writer Clinton Cawood be the judge

An Italian cowboy walks into a bar… and more than a century later, the drink named after him is ubiquitous, on cocktail lists everywhere. But before we go any further into the unlikely story of the Negroni, a quick trip further back in time is required – with a tale of two cities, in cocktail form.

We begin with the Milano-Torino, a succinct combination of Campari and sweet vermouth, named after their respective places of origin. This inspired aperitivo was first mixed, according to legend, by Gaspare Campari himself, creator of the iconic Italian bitter, in the 1860s at his café in Milan.

Already light and low-abv – just as on-trend today as it was back then – the Milano-Torino was transformed into an even more refreshing drink with the addition of soda water, eventually becoming known as the Americano.

Some say it was named for the American tourists who consumed these in quantity while visiting Italy during Prohibition, and it has the distinction of being the first drink that James Bond orders in the opening book of the series, Casino Royale.

The Americano is also the drink that the aforementioned Italian count and former cattle farmer is said to have requested upon walking into that bar, the Caff è Casoni in Florence, somewhere around 1919.

But Camillo Negroni fancied something a little less moderate on this occasion, and bartender Fosco Scarselli obliged, omitting the soda and adding some gin – the Negroni was born.

At least, that’s one of the stories. That’s not where this particular cocktail family tree ends, of course.

The Negroni has since undergone countless variations, in a manner of speaking, including the recently TikTok-famous Negroni Sbagliato, originating in the 1970s. The result of an accident this time, instead of machismo, Milan bartender Mirko Stocchetto claims to have mistaken a bottle of prosecco for gin while making a Negroni in a hurry.