‘Negroni’ by David T Smith and Keli Rivers – cool, classic and contemporary cocktail recipes: tipples to tingle the tastebuds.

The most perfect, and rather addictive, Aperitivo – a classic Negroni is the very definition of balance, simplicity and Italian sophistication. 

The classic, much revered, Negroni

Essentially, in Italy between 6 – 8pm or so is Aperitivo time, the act of sipping a cocktail and perhaps a light snack, ‘to open’ and stimulate one’s stomach before a meal.  Campari is virtually the patron saint of Aperitivo, originally crafted in 1860 by Gaspare Campari in the town of Novara near Milan.  

The secret recipe is an alcoholic infusion of herbs, aromatic plants and fruit, with a complex bittersweet orange, cherry, clove, and cinnamon flavour. As a liqueur it can be served with soda water and renowned as the signature ingredient in many cocktails.

The origin of the iconic Negroni takes us back just over a century to 1919 and Caffe Casoni in Florence, Italy.  Count Camillo Negroni asked the bartender, Fosco Scarselli, to strengthen his favourite cocktail, Milan-Torino – (aka the Americano: Campari, Sweet Vermouth, Soda Water, served with a slice of lemon) – by replacing the soda water with Gin. Scarselli also added an orange garnish rather than lemon.

This elegant, richly bittersweet Aperitivo just hit the spot as an immediate success and soon everyone was visiting the bar for a ‘Negroni.’  Or should it have been named the Scarselli?

“ The bartender must change depending on the customer who is standing in front of him. He has to know and guess the flavour of the mood he should offer him…a sort of panacea against dark moods or reversals of fortunes.” Fosco Scarselli

The entrepreneurial Count Negroni quickly set up a drinks company to market a ready-made version of his creation, Antico Negroni, which is still produced today at the same distillery in Treviso, Italy.

Count Camille Negroni

After Ian Fleming toured Italy in 1958, he wrote a short story, Risico featuring 007.  In the Cocktail Bar at the Excelsior Hotel, Rome, James Bond, as for his Martini in Casino Royale, is most specific about his favourite Gin.

‘A Negroni. With Gordon’s, please. The waiter walked back to the bar. ‘Negroni. Uno. Gordon’s.’

Negroni cocktail – the perfect promotion by James Bond

Quickly and easily prepared with just three ingredients in equal measures, you don’t need professional ice shakers, tools and skills to stir up a Negroni at home,

The traditional Negroni has been creatively re-invented by bar tenders around the world and this slim 64 page, well illustrated book covers the one hundred year evolution through more than thirty recipes of diverse and distinctive cocktails.

The authors are certainly experts on the artistic styles of Gin.  David T. Smith has contributed features to Imbibe Magazine, Channel 4 television and chaired gin judging panels at the American Distilling Institute and Gin Masters competitions.  Keli Rivers has been a ‘ginnoisseur’ at San Francisco’s Whitechapel and the Sipsmith Brand Ambassador, USA.

With a short introduction, the chapters cover Classic, White, Experimental and Seasonal, offering an intriguing array of fruity concoctions, Whisky, Rum and Tequila versions as well as sparkling summertime tipples.

First, of course, The Classic – 25 ml measures of Beefeater Gin, Campari and Red Vermouth with an orange twist. (James Bond would not approve!).

The fact that the Negroni has an orange garnish, other citrus fruits such as grapefruit and lemon can jazz it up with a tart, tangy flavour. The Porch-Drinking Negroni has the addition of fresh strawberries and the fizz of Bitter Lemon for a long, refreshing, ice-cold drink.

Sunshine Negroni – a summer drink with Gordon’s Sicilian Lemon Gin

As a colourful twist to a Tequila Sunrise, the Sunshine Negroni blends the popular Gordon’s Sicilian Lemon Gin with Orange juice, Grapefruit soda, Aperol, Dry Vermouth – this sounds like a lip-smacking, thirst quencher.

The modern equivalent of a Purl, popular by workers in the 16th century, (Gin, Ale, sugar and spices), the Stout & Steadfast, adds 60 ml of Guinness to a Negroni recipe for rich punchy taste.

Having recently enjoyed tasting a range of Beaverton ales, their ‘Bloody ‘Ell’ IPA is dry, bitter with Blood Orange notes which could ring the changes of the Stout Negroni.

Topping up a Negroni with dry sparkling Cider is most inventive in a Run, Free & Naked cocktail, where the crisp, sweet apple freshness softens the bitter aftertaste of Campari.

Sloe Gin made from Blackthorn berries, is an ancient country tradition, sipped either neat like a liqueur or with soda.  Tried and tested is the Sloe-Groni, a combination of Sloe Gin with Sipsmith London Dry Gin, Campari and Vermouth Rosso, which works beautifully, adding a rich damson jam and earthy hedgerow depth of flavour.

With many gin distillers crafting other wild berry gins, such as Bombay Bramble, Ben Lomond, Raspberry & Elderflower / Blackberry & Rhubarb, these would also be fine alternatives to Sloe Gin.  

The Boulevardier, in which Bourbon replaces the Gin, is believed to have been created in Paris around the late 1920s, by an American writer, Erskine Gwynne. 

The Boulevardier and Old Pal

Scotch whisky lovers, can try instead a Negroni Torbato, in which Bourbon is switched with Lagavulin, a Single Malt from Islay, giving a smooth, smoky flavour – a potential new classic. This was invented by Allessandro Palazzi at the legendary Dukes Bar, London, a favourite haunt of Ian Fleming and where his literary-inspired Vesper was born. 

Allessandro Palazzi, the master of the Martini at Duke’s Bar, London

It has been fascinating to browse through these classic and modern recipes and sample a few new cool, creative cocktails.  

I am however a little surprised that some well known Negroni spin offs are not included such as the Cardinale a 1950’s-era variation by Giovanni Raimondo, bartender at the Hotel Excelsior, Rome at the personal request of a guest – a German Cardinal.  

The Cardinale – a Negroni crafted with Gin, Dry Vermouth & Campari.

Instead of Rosso, the Cardinale is made with Dry Vermouth, such that it’s a lighter pink in colour rather than the usual dark crimson with a real hint of a dry Gin Martini.  Simply delectable

Also missing in this collection is Negroni Sbagliato which has a most amusing backstory. It was first served at the Bar Basso, Milan in the late 1960s when the owner, Mirko Stocchetto, poured a measure of sparkling wine instead of gin. (Sbagliato means “incorrect” or “messed up” in Italian). 

Negroni Sbagliato = Prosecco, Campari, Vermouth Rosso

Created by happy accident, this light, sparkling Negroni Spritz is still a popular Aperitivo at the Bar Basso, across Italy and worldwide. 

Last April, Stanley Tucci, the stylishly fashionable American actor posted an Instagram video of himself making (indeed, curiously shaking up!) a Negroni, which went viral, shared on Twitter with millions viewing his Cocktail masterclass through social media.

Diary Date: Negroni Week 2021, 13 – 19 September, 2021.

Negroni Week was first launched in 2013 when over a hundred bars took part to raise funds for charitable causes. and in 2019, the global event welcomed nearly 10,000 venues in 87 countries to celebrate the centenary.

The White Rose – another creative twist to the classic Negroni

This fascinating journey through the history of The Negroni, illustrates only too well how Cocktails can be jazzed up, re-invented, revamped, whether unintentionally, a drinker’s wise suggestion or the magical alchemy of experimental mixologists.   

Negroni is an essential, enticing guide for all cocktail lovers and this reasonably priced, pocket-sized book would be an attractive gift for thirsty friends.

Salute! 

Negroni by David T. Smith and Keli Rivers

Published by Ryland Peters & Small.  Hardback:  £7.99

Book Photography by Alex Luck, copuright Ryland Peters & Small

For more information see this link to the website page:

Reviewer’s Note: Perhaps the publication of this book was rushed through the editorial and proof- reading process, but for such a short book, it’s a shame that there are several errors in spelling, punctuation and typography with a repetition of the word “ice-filled” in many recipes.

Grapefruit Negroni

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About vivdevlin

I am an international travel writer, specialising in luxury travel, hotels, restaurants, city guides, cruises, islands, train and literary-inspired journeys. I review dance and theatre, Arts Festivals and love the visual arts. I have just experienced an epic voyage, circumnavigating the globe, following in the wake of Captain Cook, Mark Twain and Robert Louis Stevenson.

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