Thanks to the huge reader response to my previous article, “Negroni Cocktail Actually Invented in Africa?”, a large amount of attention has been brought to a global argument surrounding the true inventor of the Negroni cocktail. Thanks to some great feedback and reader contributions, I can now say without a shadow of doubt that Count Camillo Negroni did indeed exist.
As our investigation stood at close of the last article, we revealed that;
- The popular visual representation of Count Camillo Negroni, as championed by brands the world over, is in fact Arnold Henry Savage Landor (1865–1924) – famous painter, explorer, writer, anthropologist and cat lover.
- Two claims had been made to the invention of the Negroni Cocktail.
Popular folk law tells of a Camillo Negroni, an Italian Count who travelled to the US becoming an “adventurer, cowboy, banker and riverboat gambler in the Wild West”. Returning to his native Florence circa 1910, Camillo influenced the creation of the self-entitled cocktail at Caffè Casoni. Evidence was yet to be uncovered of his existence.
Members of the Negroni family based out of the US and Corsica have stated that there is no Camillo Negroni anywhere in their families genealogy dating back to the 11th century. Moreover they have credited the creation of the Negroni cocktail to Count Pascal Olivier de Negroni (1829-1913) who invented the aperitivo as a present to his bride when they were stationed out in Senegal, West Africa, circa 1860.
A compelling argument from both sides of the ring but until viewing any definitive documents in support of either story, there remained more holes than goals from both sides of the field.
And now that’s all changed.
I can now reveal with confidence that Count Camillo Negroni did indeed exist. With little more than a 5 minute search via online genealogy platform Ancestry.com, you can view and download a basic family tree, passenger list and business directory under the name ‘Camillo Negroni’. Moreover, his title as a Count is also recorded.
In addition to this – with special thanks to Chanticleer Society founder and Drink Boy editor Robert Hess – we can also view and download Camillo’s birth certificate, identification document and a collection of early photographs, again well referencing his title as Count. Thanks to this new evidence we now know that there existed on record, two Count Negoni’s at the beginning of the 20th century. One Italian, one Corsican, both Counts, both Negroni’s.
Born Cammillo Luigi Manfredo Maria Negroni in Florence, Italy on May 25, 1868 to Count Enrico Girolamo Maria Negroni and Julia Ada Bishop Savage Landor. In 1892, a ‘Mr Conte [Count] Camillo Negroni’ was recorded aboard the steamship Fulda departing Genoa bound for New York. He was 29 years of age. While I’m yet to find any references to his reputation as a gambler, cowboy and riverboat gambler, ten years after arriving into New York he was listed in the city business directory at 624 Madison Avenue as a teacher of ‘Fencing’ – the true extracurricular of a Count no?
When viewing early images of Camillo we can see that the Count is nothing like the romantic impression portrayed by the suave, top-hat and mustache totting image of Arnold Savage Landor. So why was this false idol mistaken as a reference to that of Camillo? A quick look at the Count’s birth certificate reveals a link. As mentioned, Camillo’s recorded mother was an ‘Ada Savage Landor’, believed to be the aunty of Arnold and therefore Camillo, his cousin. However this is yet to be accurately substantiated.
With me so far?
Later this year Luca Picchi, author of the current gospel on the subject entitled Sulle Tracce del Conte: La Vera Storia del Cocktail “Negroni” (‘On the Trail of the Count: The True Story of the Negroni Cocktail’), will be releasing a second follow up book promising to further bring to light birth and death certificates, family trees, artifacts, photos and statements from people who have met Count Camillo personally.
[NB: Luca Picchi will also be hosting a masterclass on the Negroni at the Boutique Bar Show in London on September 17th of this year].
Unfortunately, Count Pascal Olivier Negroni has proven to be a little more complicated. As such, I am yet to uncover any further evidence to support his claim of inventing the Negroni cocktail while posted in Senegal, West Africa. While the Corsican newspaper Corse Matin (February 2nd, 1980) published a statement to the late Count’s involvement, the article was only a paragraph long, referencing its creation at a “Paris at the military officers’ club of St. Augustine, on the eve of the Great War”. A great piece of ammunition for the Pascal cause but lacking in clear reference or any mention of Africa.
That said, I must acknowledge the argument made by the Negroni family. There is an impressive amount of online support for Count Pascal Olivier Negroni, largely championed by retired USAF Colonel Hector Andres Negroni, Noel Negroni and the Corsican Marquis Francois Hubert de Negroni. Together they hold a strong voice in support of their family heritage and have invested a large amount of time and effort into supporting their family claim.
In defense of an earlier statement that there has never been a listed ‘Camillo’ in 2000 years of the Negroni family history, it has been further suggested that the popularised ‘Camillo’ reference could still be that of Pascal as,
“On July 17, 1793 my family was declared traitors to the French revolution as we where at the service of King Louis XVI as the Corsica Black Night(Negroni) and executioners of the realm. So yes we had a few name changes and hid until the Corsica Napoleon became Emperor of France”.
While a valid argument, Pascal Olivier Negroni passed away in 1913, 6 years before the drink was first made at Caffè Casoni in Florence, Italy. Since members of the Negroni family began actively defending their claim on social media forums, the Negroni debate has developed beyond merely an investigation driven by mutual lovers of a great cocktail, and into a heated defense on the Negroni family honour. As rebutted by one family member,
“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.”
While a fitting challenge from one born of nobility, I live in hope that further evidence to support their claim will soon present itself.
Negroni the cocktail…
Whatever happened and whoever was involved between 1860 and 1930, the Negroni cocktail would not see its name in ink for another two decades thereafter. While it holds status today as one of the cocktail greats, it was predated in print by many of its newly emerging alternatives. The ‘Old Pal’ (rye, dry vermouth and Campari) saw print in Harry’s ABC of Mixing Cocktails by Harry McElhone as early as 1922 and again in the Savoy Cocktail Book in 1930. The popular ‘Boulevardier’ cocktail (bourbon, sweet vermouth, Campari) saw print in another Harry McElhone publication, Barflys and Cocktails in 1927. With all of these modern-day alternatives predating the Negroni’s first emergence in print, isn’t it plausible that the drink might have been made well before any Count even got his name to it?
In 1907, Arnaldo Strucchi published the first edition of his book Il Vermouth di Torino. In it he wrote of a popular drink under the heading ‘Vermouth al Bitter o Americano’ describing;
“[translated] Named Americano as in the United States there is a popular habit of drinking liquor mixed with Vermouth, Bitters and Gin (or whiskey) to form a drink called ‘cocktail’.”
Arnaldo continues to state, “There are many differences between them and their preparations, depending on the bitter liquor that is employed”. And therein lies the truth. Gin, sweet vermouth, curacao and bitters is called a ‘Martinez’ (1880s). Gin, sweet vermouth, Green Chartreuse and orange bitters is known as a ‘Bijou’ (1890s) while gin, sweet vermouth, Fernet Branca and orange bitters is a ‘Hanky Pankie’ (1920s). As for Arnaldo’s reference to substituting the gin for whiskey, well that ones called a ‘Manhattan’ (1870s).
With all of our fighting for ownership of the Negroni name, the worlds most popular cocktails today still evolved from a birth of “stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters”. It’s the job of the barman to choose the selection of each at a ratio of his choosing for the requirement of the guests, in which ever country he resides. Was the Negroni invented by a Count? Quite probably. Could the same drink have been made by anyone else prior to the 20th century? Most definitely.
As written in 1806 when defining the word ‘cocktail’ for the first time – of the truth, I say this;
“…a person having swallowed a glass of it, is ready to swallow anything else”.
[Read Followup Article: New Evidence Negroni Invented in Africa]
SPECIAL THANKS TO:
- Peter Schaf, Dom Costa, Ben Craighead, François Monti, David Wondrich and Robert Hess
- Chanticleer Society: Forum – Raise a glass for General Pascal Olivier Count de Negroni tonight
- Chanticleer Society: Media – Count Negroni
- Ancestry.com: Online Genealogy Records – Website
- Oh Gosh: Campari, Take Four – Blog
- Mark Hayward’s City Matters: Negroni family lays claim to namesake cocktail
- J Sheekey FISH by Tim Hughes, Allan Jenkins, Howard Sooley – 2012
- Sulle Tracce del Conte: La Vera Storia del Cocktail “Negroni” by Lucca Picchi – 2008
- The Cocktail Hunter: What? Another Count Negroni? – Blog
- Ellis Island Foundation Inc.: Ship Database – Fulda, Genoa, 1892,
- The Jerry Thomas Project: The Negroni is a Simple Drink – Blog
- Il Vermouth di Torino. Monografia con 18 Incisioni e 12 Tavole Fototipiche by Arnaldo Strucchi – First Edition, 1907
- Boutique Bar Show, UK – Event
- Tempus Fugit Spirits: The Spirit of History – Premium Spirits and Absinthes
- Tea Berry Blue: The Perfect Negroni! – Blog