Quote of the Day: “The Negroni: A gaz regan Notion” by gaz regan
“What? Another Count Negroni?
There’s another Count Negroni, and one of his descendants insists that he was the man who first created the eponymous drink. Here, then, I’ll bring you a series of posts that appeared on the chanticleersociety.org forums in recent years, and you can make up your own mind as to the authenticity of the claim.
Terkel Kleist, October, 2009:
I have been reading up on the origin of the Negroni lately and have as always come across the popular dates of 1919 and 1920 … I have also come across the posts of a man named Noel Negroni who’s bringing these new fun facts about General Pascal Olivier Count de Negroni aka Count Camillo Negroni. (Born: Castle of San Colombano 4 April 1829- Died: Alencon, Orne, 22 October 1913). So was this drink enjoyed even earlier than we thought or did he have nothing to do with it??
David Wondrich promptly told him that this was a different Count Negroni, but he was countered by a certain Noel Negroni who claimed that General Pascal Olivier Count de Negroni, a relative of his, was, in fact, the true originator of the drink.
Noel Negroni’s posts on the subject included:
It was invented by General Pascal Olivier Count de Negroni, Here is his brief bio:
(Born: Castle of San Colombano 4 April 1829- Died: Alencon, Orne, 22 October 1913).
Pascal joined the French Army at 18 years of age and retired as a Brigadier General after a long illustrious career spanning 44 years. He is best remembered in the French Army annals for leading the legendary charge of cuirassiers in the Battle of Reichsoffen during the Franco Prussian War of 1870. As a reward for his valiant actions and exemplary conduct he was personally decorated on 20 August 1870 by the French Emperor, Louis Napoleon, with the Officer’s Cross of the Imperial Legion of Honor. On 3 September 1870 he was captured by the Prussians during the Battle of Sedan and spent time as a prisoner of war until his liberation 28 March 1871. On 27 December 1884 he was promoted to Brigadier General and on 4 May 1889 he was named Commander of the Legion of Honor. In 1891 he retired to his Chateau de Rochefeuille, near Mayenne, Mayenne. Pascal Olivier was the reputed inventor of the famous “Negroni Cocktail” (equal parts of Campari, Gin, and Sweet Vermouth, served in a short glass over ice and garnished with an orange slice).
David Wondrich countered:
The Count Negroni in question was not Arnold Henry Savage Landor, but rather his cousin, Cammillo Luigi Manfredo Maria Negroni, born in Florence on May 25, 1868 to Count Enrico Negroni and Ada Savage Landor. After a brief military career, he went to America in the late 1880s, enjoyed a colorful career (cowboy, gambler, etc) and finally returned to Florence in 1905, where he would for the most part stay until his death on September 25th, 1934.
The questions of whether he was a true count or a true Negroni might be of historical or genealogical interest (for what it’s worth, Enrico Negroni was the son of Count Luigi Negroni and Countess Sofia Rusca). But from the point of view of mixology the only question of importance is whether he invented or inspired the drink we all know and love. Here, Picchi supplies a good deal of evidence that he did.
Besides the account of Fosco Scarselli, barman at the Cafe Casoni, Cammillo’s regular watering-hole, that the drink was created when, one day between 1919 and 1920, Count Camillo (at some point he dropped the second m in his name) came into the bar and asked him to “irrobustire” (“fortify”) his customary Americano with gin, there’s also a photograph of an October 13, 1920 letter in English addressed to “My Dear Negroni” by Frances Harper of Chelsea, London. In it appear the following lines:
“You say you can drink, smoke, & I am sure laugh, just as much as ever [evidently Negroni had been ill]. I feel you are not much to be pitied! You must not take more than 20 Negronis in one day!”
According to Scarselli, the Count made frequent pit-stops at the bar and was often good for as many as 40 Negronis a day, so 20 represents an austerity program.
Short of sworn testimony, photographs and notarized depositions, this is about as good as evidence of the origins of a classic cocktail can get. DW
Noel Negroni added:
Camillo Negroni’s ancestors are serfs or indentured servant of our many lands holding around the world and nothing more as our family history goes back to the year 1090AD and there is no mention of any Count Camillo Negroni. This Luca Picchi who authored “Sulle Tracce del Conte” is nothing more than a tourist guide book to Florence and nothing more!! The very title of his book is slanderous and libelous, period. Titles in Italy are bought and sold like the trinkets and beads that my family used to trade with Caribbean Indians. The drink was not invented in any bar or by any bartender, period! I have this tourist guide book and it changes nothing! If dueling were legal in Italy, I would be challenging all those who made these insulting, offensive, slanderous, libelous, derogatory and defamatory statements to a duel to the death. Noel Negroni.
Wondrich came back with:
I know it’s painful when you can’t find any evidence to corroborate a cherished family myth, but you can’t convince people that that myth is true by browbeating them, or (in a bartender’s forum) by insulting one of their fellow bartenders because his evidence doesn’t support your myth. Should you come back with actual evidence to show the world that your ancestor invented the drink, I’m sure everyone here would look at that evidence with respect and without prejudice (something you refuse to do with the evidence presented here). Until then, insulting writers, bartenders and Italians in general won’t win you any friends.
Dom Costa, the famous Italian bartender, chirped in on Facebook with this (lightly edited) posting:
This is the answer of Luca Picchi author of the book “Sulle tracce del conte. the true story of negroni” : The cocktail negroni is’ without any shadow of doubt created in Florence between 1919 and 1920 at the Caffe ‘Casoni located in Viaee’ Tornabuoni. This is it! There are no other stories, doubts, replies, or documents that may say otherwise: I have in my possession birth, and death certificates, family tree, 800 photos. Written statements of many Florentine bartenders of the past plus a taped statement by Franco Scarselli (son of Fosco) who really met Count Camillo Negroni. I also have hundreds of newspaper articles , both Italian and American, signed letters by the Count himself, artifacts and evidence from direct descendants of the Count. It seems strange that a character who came out of nowhere and died in 1913 could have invented a cocktail in Corsica before it was even served in Florence’s cafes , while in Corsica nobody even knows how to make a Negroni.
Although Noel Negroni came off as being pompous, I think there was a certain amount of chain-pulling going on there, too. It’s possible that he secretly didn’t believe that his ancestor had invented the drink but got a big kick out of upsetting the cocktail community. Who knows?
And wouldn’t it be amazing if, one day, his family turned up solid information to substantiate his claim? Too funny to think about, but stranger things have happened.
At this moment, though, I’m absolutely convinced that Luca Picchi’s tale is true, and Camille Negroni, the bronco buster, was the man who first put the Negroni together.”
Source: The Negroni: A gaz regan Notion
Currently Sipping: Aperol Spritz