A Brief Study of the Negroni, or rather, the Camparinette Cocktail
by Andrew “the Alchemist”
In 1950, Horace Sutton published his book, "Footloose in Italy." In that book he suggests a couple of drinks he found to be native to Italy – the Negroni and the Cardinale. The Negroni, he wrote, is composed of “vermouth, campari [sic], seltzer and gin.” The Cardinale, he describes as being, “a Martini with campari [sic] which turns it red.” Sutton is not the only early source that presents the Negroni as being a cooler/highball. It appears to be a close relative to the Americano Highball of the 1920’s or 1930’s. Sutton’s book is evidence that what is called the Negroni today was known in Italy as the Cardinale during the same period.
But was the Cardinale truly native to Italy? In the American book published in 1934 by Boothby’s World Drinks Company and attributed to William Boothby (even though he had died in 1930), there is a drink called the Camparinette. The Camparinette Cocktail is composed of gin, sweet vermouth and Campari. It is diluted with method ice and strained into a glass cocktail goblet. The garniture is a twist of lemon. That should seem familiar to all drink enthusiasts, even if the name does not.
So, not only is the drink that is now commonly called the Negroni the same drink that the Italians and Sutton called the Cardinale in 1950 – it already existed in an American book with its own name in 1934. Since Campari is a grand bitters, the Camparinette is elementally that most American type of drink – a bittered sling, otherwise known as a cocktail.What does this all mean for the bar-lore of an Italian count? If any one of the men proposed as the count Negroni in question was involved with creating any drink, it surely was not the more popular and better drink that people now errantly call after his name. That creature is of an elementally American species and breeding – and its home range is where its recipe was first documented – as the Camparinette Cocktail.
But, let's not be stingy! Italian restaurants have long been serving a salad from Mexico, the César Salad, as if it were Italian. Let them pretend the Camparinette is Italian, too - even if they have to call it by the name of one of their own abandoned drinks, the Negroni.