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April 6, 2015 4:25 PM   Subscribe

The Curious Evolution Of The Americano
The current approved written history of the Negroni goes like this: Count Camilo Negroni, a supposedly flamboyant Italian gentleman who was obsessed with American culture, walked into a bar in Florence one day and ordered an Americano with gin in place of the soda water.… Now that’s a great story. But it’s a little suspect. Normally, when people substitute something in a drink, it’s a one-to-one substitution. We normally swap vodka for gin. Or lime for lemon. Nobody in their right mind would swap gin for soda water. It’s just not natural. But supposedly that’s what Count Negroni came up with, and he inadvertently spawned an entire category of drinks. The Bijou. The Louisiane. The Tipperary.… But then the story gets even stranger.
posted by Lexica (60 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
I always thought the origins were the other way around: the negroni was the original cocktail, and the americano switched out the gin to make the drink more palatable to American GIs.

I have absolutely no authoritative source for this. And now even wikipedia says I'm wrong.

Regardless. I love a negroni. It was the first complex cocktail that I discovered, and is one of my benchmark drinks for any new bartender. I really really hope that it doesn't become the next big trendy drink. I want it to be well enough known that any self-respecting bartender can make me a good one, and yet completely off the hipster radar. I will slap - and slap hard - any bartender that offers me a monstrosity like a sous-vide negroni.
posted by kanewai at 4:51 PM on April 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


And here I was trying to figure out why the hell anyone would drink coffee with gin, yuck.

...I am obviously not very knowledgeable about mixed drinks.
posted by Greg_Ace at 4:57 PM on April 6, 2015 [42 favorites]


Greg_Ace: "And here I was trying to figure out why the hell anyone would drink coffee with gin, yuck. "

You and me both.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 5:00 PM on April 6, 2015 [6 favorites]


Oh, okay:
To talk about the Negroni, you have to talk about the Americano. Now, an Americano is just Campari, sweet vermouth and soda over ice with a little orange peel or wedge.

I also thought this was about coffee made with gin.
posted by bleep at 5:01 PM on April 6, 2015 [9 favorites]


kanewai: I will slap - and slap hard - any bartender that offers me a monstrosity like a sous-vide negroni.

Varying existing recipes to create new cocktails is kind of a thing that bartenders like to do. And it kind of comes up in the article. Almost as the point of it, you might even say. Not sure why that offends your sensibilities so much.
posted by cobra libre at 5:01 PM on April 6, 2015 [6 favorites]


A negroni will only get trendy if you soak a handful of hops in it.
posted by GuyZero at 5:02 PM on April 6, 2015 [7 favorites]


and yet completely off the hipster radar

My rich, hipster-hating hipster boss likes to barrel-age negronis at home, so I'm afraid this ship has sailed.
posted by The Minotaur at 5:03 PM on April 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


Guys.... what if coffee with gin is actually wonderful? Has anyone tried it? Weirder things have worked!
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 5:05 PM on April 6, 2015 [7 favorites]


It was the first complex cocktail that I discovered

Complex? It's three ingredients, in equal measure, and a hunk of orange. It's pretty much the simplest cocktail there is.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:06 PM on April 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


It was the first complex cocktail that I discovered

Complex? It's three ingredients, in equal measure, and a hunk of orange.


I read this as "first liquor drink that wasn't a slosh of booze into some diet coke."
posted by The Minotaur at 5:08 PM on April 6, 2015 [10 favorites]


I've put gin in coffee, it tastes like necessity, like preparations for an almost forgotten brunch date.
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 5:20 PM on April 6, 2015 [27 favorites]


I was THIS close to pouring some gin in my coffee.

Actually, I'm going to go through with it and call it a "Metafiltroni"
posted by Renoroc at 5:21 PM on April 6, 2015 [17 favorites]


It was the first complex cocktail that I discovered

Complex? It's three ingredients, in equal measure, and a hunk of orange. It's pretty much the simplest cocktail there is.

I read this as "first liquor drink that wasn't a slosh of booze into some diet coke."


Wow, you guys can be harsh. Complex = complex flavors. As in, more complex than a Manhattan, martini, old fashioned, or other classic cocktails. I like them all, for the record ... but a negroni needs to balance three strong bases rather than two, so it is a step up in complexity.
posted by kanewai at 5:23 PM on April 6, 2015 [8 favorites]


kanewai:
"I want it to be well enough known that any self-respecting bartender can make me a good one, and yet completely off the hipster radar."
Too late (link is to an event from 2013, since that isn't immediately apparent).
posted by idiopath at 5:23 PM on April 6, 2015


I LOVE the Negroni. Most bars, even the diviest, have the ingredients, and since it's so simple it's hard to screw up. It's my bitter sweet orangey drink of choice...so much so that I made vats of it at Burning Man last year and forced it on pretty much everyone within reach.
You scoff, perhaps, but me forcing the tasty Negroni on my neighbors is what helped get me a night of riding with them atop their iconic El Pulpo Mechanico, perhaps the worlds most famous fire breathing giant cephalopod.
So many reasons to love the Negroni.
I'm drinking one right now. Cheers.
posted by newpotato at 5:23 PM on April 6, 2015 [6 favorites]


The best one I've had is a Navy Strength Negroni from The Bitter Bar in Boulder Colorado.

The navy strength gin brings a bite that evens out the sweetness from the Campari and vermouth.

I tried to get it reproduced other places, but the bartenders tell me I'm wrong and then proceed to fuck it up and make me another glass of iced Robitussin.

Since I know the "secret", I just make them at home instead.
posted by sideshow at 5:30 PM on April 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Too late (link is to an event from 2013, since that isn't immediately apparent).

Yeah, friends of mine went to an actual negroni bar in PDX (probably the place in that link). I don't think they ONLY sold negronis, but it was definitely had a "we do one thing well, and it's negronis" thing going on.
posted by sideshow at 5:35 PM on April 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Love the Bijou «jewel», apparently named as such because of the variably coloured ingredients: gin (diamond), green chartreuse (emerald), and vermouth (ruby).
posted by ageispolis at 5:41 PM on April 6, 2015


A negroni is a truly great cocktail. Calling it "three ingredients" is ignoring what those three ingredients are. Gin is a complex flavored spirit. Campari is a complex bitter. Sweet vermouth is a complex flavored sweet wine. It's 3 very complicated things mixed together. And surprisingly, they work well together. I find the 1:1:1 recipe nearly undrinkably sweet though. I prefer more like 4 gin, 2 campari, 1 vermouth.

And yeah the barrel aged negroni trend is a bit precious. But it's really a pretty good drink. Much mellower than a traditional fresh cocktail. I don't pretend to understand why, and honestly the choice of gin and vermouth probably has more to do with it than the aging.

A negroni makes for a pretty good long drink with soda or water on a hot day. That brings it dangerously close to Americano territory but the gin keeps it kicky.
posted by Nelson at 5:44 PM on April 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


Varying existing recipes to create new cocktails is kind of a thing that bartenders like to do. And it kind of comes up in the article. Almost as the point of it, you might even say. Not sure why that offends your sensibilities so much.

It's not so much the 'creating new cocktails' as much the fetishization that comes along with being the trendy drink or food of the moment in Brooklyn, Portland, or Burlington.
posted by kanewai at 5:46 PM on April 6, 2015


Guys.... what if coffee with gin is actually wonderful? Has anyone tried it? Weirder things have worked!

That sad lost few months I had will tell you no, no it's not a great idea.
posted by The Whelk at 5:52 PM on April 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


> Actually, I'm going to go through with it and call it a "Metafiltroni"

featuring a subtle beany aftertaste!
posted by archagon at 5:56 PM on April 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


>> Actually, I'm going to go through with it and call it a "Metafiltroni"

>featuring a subtle beany aftertaste!


So the appropriate glassware for this drink would be... a plate?
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 6:00 PM on April 6, 2015 [20 favorites]


I've really been enjoying the red Vermouths from Catalonia lately: Vermut Rojo
Have not tried in a Negroni; I bet it would be tasty.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 6:02 PM on April 6, 2015


When I said it was "simple" I mostly meant that after two it's just a little too easy to make a third.

(A fourth is, thankfully, impossible.)
posted by Sys Rq at 6:07 PM on April 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


While all of the potential lushes are here, I encourage you all to drink Lillet Blanc over ice with a twist. It is the Queen of the aperitifs. Cocchi Americano is even better (like the original Kina Lillet before the reformulation) but hard to source.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:12 PM on April 6, 2015 [7 favorites]


This is where I can plug the Lucien Gaudin, an under appreciated, in the vein of Negroni. Less campari, and 1/2 dry vermouth and 1/2 cointreau. Does well with orange or lemon peel, and if its too sweet you can either up the gin ratio or dial back the other components.

It barrel ages well, but also marries well (just pre mix and add to a bottle and sit overnight - still chill with ice to dillute by 10% or so before serving).
posted by mrzarquon at 6:15 PM on April 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


leotrotsky if you enjoy the Lillet on ice try this the same way.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 6:24 PM on April 6, 2015


leotrotsky speaks the truth.
posted by Fnarf at 6:24 PM on April 6, 2015


Most nights, it's a manhattan or a negroni for me. Depends on what's for dinner, typically.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:35 PM on April 6, 2015


I want it to be well enough known that any self-respecting bartender can make me a good one, and yet completely off the hipster radar.

Too late. It's already Negroni Season.
posted by asterix at 7:13 PM on April 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


This is probably a good place to ask: if I say that I love Campari, and that I love gin, but I despise vermouth of any kind whatsoever, does anyone have any good recommendations? It's not the sweetness I dislike but the wineyness. I really like Chartreuse, would that hold its own as the sweet component in some of these? Or something else?

And more importantly, are any of them well-known drinks that I could order in a bar the way someone might order a negroni or a bijou or a tailspin, which all look lovely to me, except for that damned universal vermouth!
posted by traveler_ at 7:18 PM on April 6, 2015


Personally, I mix more than a few Negronis at work.

Off duty, I like a Boulevardier; swap bourbon for the gin.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 7:47 PM on April 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


traveler_, it's probably going to take some experimentation to be sure, but I wouldn't be surprised if making a last word with Campari swapped in for the Maraschino liqueur was tasty.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 7:47 PM on April 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is probably a good place to ask: if I say that I love Campari, and that I love gin, but I despise vermouth of any kind whatsoever, does anyone have any good recommendations?

Try the Jasmine. But also try a Negroni, because it's really more than the sum of its parts. As noted upthread, you can play with the ratios of the ingredients to suit your taste. I usually end up with something like 3:2:2 (gin:Campari:vermouth).

Here in Chicago, it's popular to spike Radlers with gin or Malort, but I prefer mine with Campari.
posted by HumuloneRanger at 7:53 PM on April 6, 2015


> I want it to be well enough known that any self-respecting bartender can make me a good one, and yet completely off the hipster radar.

There have been three years of Negroni Weeks sponsored by Campari and Imbibe (one of the bigger cocktail magazines). The cat is well and truly out of the bag there.

Which is fine. Some folks make them with blood oranges, others barrel age them, or serve them bottled. Cocktails have always been mixtures of the time and like other culinary practices, pushing to be inventive and to find a new way to work with them is always been a practice. I welcome the mixologist trend because it means defining drinks as more than bourbon neat, sickly sweet vodka or rum drinks in martini glasses or generic American beers.
posted by mrzarquon at 9:19 PM on April 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


Try a negroni with Jerez quina! (I like Valdespino.)
posted by Joseph Gurl at 9:32 PM on April 6, 2015


Sys Rq, I think a fourth Negroni is formally possible but the only time I've attempted it I had to be dragged out from under a toilet stall so I'm not sure I succeeded.
posted by en forme de poire at 9:50 PM on April 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


As a lifelong fiend for bitter flavours I was delighted to discover Negronis when they hit London a few years back and rarely get through a week without at least a few. So very good, and so easy to make at home.

Like fernet, they do seem to be a trendy drink that's come round from a previously... fuddy duddy reputation? I chat a lot about booze with my Dad, who seemed wryly amused when I started raving to him about Negronis. On being asked why, he said he was glad to hear they were back in fashion, and they were what he used to feed my maternal grandmother in the 70s when she got a bit exercised and needed calming down =')

In this case I'm truly grateful for the circular nature of trends. May the negroni never die.
posted by ominous_paws at 11:42 PM on April 6, 2015


A family of gin drinks I have never heard of before?

Well, there goes this weekend... and maybe part of next week, too. :)
posted by hippybear at 12:28 AM on April 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


I prefer more like 4 gin, 2 campari, 1 vermouth.

This is how I do it. 4 gin in a martini for me. 2 campari for the guests. Just pour out the vermouth.
posted by chavenet at 1:37 AM on April 7, 2015


Morgenthaler is a great bartender, and has written what is probably the definitive book on the technique and theory of cocktail creation, but I agree with him on his not being a very good cocktail historian. The article omits entirely the original name for the drink, the Milano-Torino, which came from the birthplaces of the main two ingredients: Campari from Milan, and sweet vermouth from Turin. I actually wish this name was more widely known, as it is always a pain to have to explain that you want the cocktail and not the coffee drink when ordering it at a bar. At some point it became known as the Americano, which for years I had heard was because it became popular with Americans (I disagree entirely that is was a slight against Americans, as the drink was supposedly fairly popular in Italy well before the name change). Recently I have preferred the theory that it, like the class of aperitif wine called Americano, is derived from the Italian word americante, meaning bitter (I had actually thought it meant slightly bitter, as the drink is less bitter than straight Campari, much as the Americano aromatized wine is less bitter than amaro, but I don't know Italian and can't find any evidence of this) if the Haus Alpenz portfolio page is to be believed.

So that's what I tell people these days, and because I am behind the bar they take it as fact.

Here is another article about the apparent dispute over which Count Negroni invented the drink, which mentions that several of the drinks which I have long considered Negroni variants actually appear in print before the Negroni cocktail itself. Remember that every story about the origin of a drink or spirit is one part fact and one part myth, with plenty of bullshit added to taste.
posted by Jawn at 2:16 AM on April 7, 2015 [5 favorites]


I want it to be well enough known that any self-respecting bartender can make me a good one, and yet completely off the hipster radar.

I'd take that we are reading about it here as a sign that it is not off the hipster radar.

I've actually only had one Negroni, and it was way too sweet for my taste so I never had another. Was I served a crappy one or are they supposed to be that sweet?
posted by Dip Flash at 4:13 AM on April 7, 2015


I'm afraid here in London the Negroni has become the hipster cocktail of choice. Good you can get it in most east end pubs (hipster central) - bad that there are all sorts of variations and substitutions.
posted by dprs75 at 5:30 AM on April 7, 2015


dprs75 - If it's following the Pulled Pork Trajectory, the negroni should show up in Wetherspoons for £2 a go in about a month, and I shall be the happiest man alive.
posted by ominous_paws at 6:54 AM on April 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's super convenient that the recipe for a Negroni is right on the Campari bottle.
posted by ODiV at 9:59 AM on April 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


YESSS finally I get to say that I liked something before it was cool
posted by en forme de poire at 10:45 AM on April 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


Where in this case by "before it was cool" I mean "a good hundred years after it was invented at least" but shh, let me have my moment
posted by en forme de poire at 10:48 AM on April 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Like fernet, they do seem to be a trendy drink that's come round from a previously.

Fernet is a thing in England now?
posted by atoxyl at 10:48 AM on April 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Fernet is only a thing for people who haven't actually tasted it.
posted by Nelson at 10:58 AM on April 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Fernet is only a bad thing for people who haven't actually tasted it.
FTFY
posted by Joseph Gurl at 11:18 PM on April 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


Fernet story: I was at Lafitte's in New Orleans last year, the lady ahead of me was ordering Fernet. I asked if she was from San Francisco, and she was.

Campari story, this time in Berkeley. Guy ahead of me orders a Campari and soda. Sits down, takes one sip. He pushes the pint glass of bubbly orangey-red goodness to the side and doesn't touch it again. Sigh.
posted by Standard Orange at 12:00 AM on April 8, 2015


Yeah, Fernet has been here for a couple years at least. Admittedly by that I mean in London and among a certain subset of people but yeah.

Again, a fuddy duddy drink come around. Is it the third or second Nolan batman flick where Alfred babbles grandfatherishly about sipping a fernet in a cafe in Italy?
posted by ominous_paws at 12:52 AM on April 8, 2015


And to be clear, there are many more fernets than just Fernet Branca (hallowed be its name).
posted by Lexica at 9:39 AM on April 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm just used to Fernet (Branca) being hip by way of "it's a San Francisco thing." Or especially when my friends came back to the Bay from Argentina - a double whammy of feigned sophistication. Maybe across the Atlantic it's hip by way of Italy, I don't know. Every once in a while I do still get the urge to buy a bottle.
posted by atoxyl at 12:30 PM on April 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


I might like Branca Menta better.
posted by atoxyl at 12:32 PM on April 8, 2015


Fernet & Coca-cola is not only the national drink of Argentina, it has it's own pop song.

Even in SF I think of drinking Fernet as a bartender thing rather than a local thing. But maybe that just reflects the company I keep.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 5:49 PM on April 8, 2015


"The Americano… is said to have been served first around 1861 at Gaspare Campari's bar, a fashionable meeting place frequented by Verdi, Edward VII, and, later, Ernest Hemingway. But it wasn't until the time of the Noble Experiment that the Italians, subjected to an influx of Americans, notice the New World bons vivants favoring the drink and – in a dubious compliment – dubbed it the Americano."

"The recipe for what was first called the Camparinete cocktail… has been around for a while, maybe as long as 100 years. Most people – including those working for the Italian company Campari – can't quite recall when it first surfaced. Some say the Caffe Giacosa in Italy is its birthplace; others insist that no one in particular should receive credit for it it's simple recipe, an inspiring standby at outdoor cafés for years. There is, however, the general consensus that during the 1950s, Campari decided the drink should call be called the Negroni to avoid confusion with all other Compari cocktails – most of which are also being called Camparinetes. As always, though, there are dissenters. Some insist that the name Negroni is at least continuously tied to count Camilo Negroni, a Florentine aristocrat from the '20s who supposedly frequented numerous bars in Italy. From what we are told, the count ordered this drink so often that bartenders of the day begin to call the drink by his name."
Pgs 52 & 130, Paul Harrington, Cocktail: The Drinks Bible for the 21st Century
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:32 AM on April 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


continuously tenuously tied to…

fucking speech to text
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 10:19 AM on April 9, 2015


Seconding the Boulevardier as cocktail of choice, but only the one my favourite bartender and I painstakingly worked out together. (Oh, the toil and misery!)
posted by salix at 1:20 AM on April 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


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