Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Brief Study of the Negroni, or rather, the Camparinette Cocktail

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 C├ęsar 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.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sangaree vs. Sangris, Sangria, and American Sangarees

Sangaree vs. Sangris, Sangria and American Sangarees
by Andrew "the Alchemist"
            The original Sangaree (or Sangre or Sangoree) was a punch documented in London as far back as 1736.  Its normal composition was Madeira wine with lime juice, sugar, water and nutmeg.  It’s possible that its originator, Mr. Gordon (who had a punch shop in the Strand in London), sold it as being healthy for the blood.  Madeira wine is a fortified wine from the Portuguese island of Madeira.  Mr. Gordon called his punch ‘Sangre’ from the Portuguese for ‘blood.’  ‘Sangaree’ is probably a flourish on a poorly-pronounced Anglicization of ‘sangre.’
            Sangaree became very popular in the hot climes of the British Caribbean, and it most-likely spread from there to the French-speaking Caribbean as ‘Sangris.’  In the 1800’s, a writer in France postulated that the drink had a French origin since it seemed obvious to him that ‘Sangris’ came from ‘sang gris,’ which means ‘gray blood’ in French.
            From either the French-speaking or English-speaking Caribbean, the drink spread to the Spanish-speaking world and became known there as ‘Sangria,’ where it is based on Spanish wine.  By the 1900’s, Sangria was assumed to have a Spanish origin in much the same type of thinking that previously had it thought to be originally French.
            In the U.S.A., Sangaree lost its sour element and dropped from punch to sling (the most uniquely American type of mixed drink).  American Sangarees did retain the use of fortified wines, and by the 1800’s any sling containing fortified wine would be called a ‘Sangaree’ in the U.S.A.

Saturday, January 15, 2011