The Negroni: a classic cocktail with a very varied history

Nowadays the Negroni is as ubiquitous as Love Island stars in the Mail Online sidebar, but – like all the best legends – it’s origins are heavily disputed, with champions on both sides of the historical fence. To celebrate Negroni Week 2020 we’re going to take a look at how this now classic cocktail came into being.




Negroni is a popular family name in Northern Italy and it’s generally accepted that the cocktail is derived from the Americano, which was in turn based on the Milano-Torino, which takes its name from the hometowns of the two main ingredients: equal part Campari (Milan) and Amaro Costa (Turin).


The Milano-Torino is said to have been invented in Caffe Costa by Gaspare Campari. The area was popular with Americans who, not used to such strong drinks, would ask for their cocktail to be watered down with a splash of soda, thus giving birth to the Americano.


The Cocktail-Crazy Count


The story runs that Count Camillo Negroni, a notorious bon vivant, sometime cowboy, gambler and lover of all things boozy, asked for an extra kick to be added to his Americano. The bartender switched soda for gin and this subsequently became the Count’s regular order. It soon gained a reputation and more and more customers began to request a ‘Count Negroni’ and the cocktail we know today was born.


The French Lieutenant


While this is a romantic notion it’s been disputed that a Count Camillo has ever existed within the Negroni family genealogy. Instead, historians argue that Pascal Oliver Comte de Negroni was the true inventor, and was in fact, a Frenchman who fought in the Franco-Prussian wars. During a particularly decadent soiree, he introduced his friends at the Officers Club to his favourite cocktail, which contained vermouth, a drink now believed to be the source of the Negroni cocktail.


Historical Evidence


Some of the earliest mentions are in two guides printed in 1955. The UKBG Guide to Drinks, and Oscar Haimo’s Wine Digest, published in the UK and US respectively. Andrew Willet also found a reference to the Negroni in Horace Sutton’s Footloose in Italy, which mentions the Negroni as a popular Italian export native to the country.


We also have the famous quote from Orson Welles, who said upon trying his first (alleged) Negroni in 1947: ‘The bitters are excellent for the liver, the gin is good for you. They balance each other out!’. There are also references to James Bond enjoying a Negroni or two when a Martini wasn’t available.


Does It Matter?


However it arrived in our glasses, the Negroni is loved for good reason. It’s a true all-rounder, which can be enjoyed ice cold in summer, and will just as easily warm you on those chilly winter nights. Its ubiquity is testament so its smoothness, balance and bittersweet flavours, making it a perennial crowd-pleaser.


And with such an elegant little cocktail, what better gin to serve with than a cool, clean shot of Fifty Pounds? It’s a marriage made in heaven.


Find our recipe here:

A Fifty Pounds Negroni