Negroni Float – Barman meets Soda Jerk
The bitters are excellent for your liver, the gin is bad for you. They balance each other.
– Orson Welles on the Negroni
The Negroni (nay-GROW-nee) is perhaps the quintessential aperitivo – one part gin, one part sweet vermouth, one part Campari, all of it over ice, with an orange round. Classic cocktail lore tells us the Negroni is a direct descendant of the Milano-Torino, a drink now known as the Americano. It happened like this: in 1919 at Florence’s Caffe Casoni Count Camillo Negroni asked barman Fosco Scarselli to add a bit of fortification, un ‘po piu robusto, to his Milano-Torino. Sig. Scarselli acquiesced to his patron’s wish, adding gin in place of seltzer. The deed done, Sig. Scarselli realized the two drinks looked quite alike. With a barman’s panache he substituted an orange garnish for the Milano-Torino’s lemon…
and the Negroni took life.
The Negroni Family actually produced a pret a porter version of the drink called Antico Negroni at the family’s Negroni Distillerie in Treviso beginning in 1919.
Orson Welles discovered the drink in 1947 while on location in Rome working on the film Black Magic, also known as Cagliostro. I could not resist including The Great One’s quote above.
There are more blips on the Negroni time line. There’s the Cyn-Cin, and then the happiest of bar accidents, when in the late 1960’s Mirko Stocchetto, owner of Milano’s Bar Basso, accidentally added Prosecco instead of gin while building a patron’s Negroni. Ever the convivial type, the patron took a sip, and the rest as they say, is history. Today the Negroni sbagliato, or “Bungled Negroni” is one of the world’s most popular drinks.
I’ve always loved soda fountain treats. Even my husband was a soda jerk in college, working at the Carnation Ice Cream store here in Los Angeles. When I was a kid I used to order a bowl of whipped cream at The Carousel, our local soda shop in Brentwood. Those of you who grew up in Los Angeles may remember The Carousel restaurant, both for its connection to mobster Mickey Cohen whose sister owned the joint, and for its lightly sweetened whipped cream that was tinted a most memorable shade of pink, a pink utterly irresistible to me.
As I got older I left the bowls of pink whipped cream behind and grew to love sodas and floats. The Carousel closed, and I moved on to Wil Wright’s. A bit older still, and I gravitated to a good Negroni and later to a Negroni sbagliato. The soda shop however, still held sway, even though Wil Wrights’ had long ago closed its doors. Why not make a Negroni Float, I thought? Surely it was no more over the top than a huge bowl of pink whipped cream. So here it is – a Negroni topped with Prosecco and loaded with scoops of Blood Orange-Campari Sorbetto, the best of both the barman’s and the soda jerk’s worlds. If only Wil Wright’s had offered this one, maybe they’d still be open for business.
I used the very dark, almost purple-fleshed Moro blood oranges to make the sorbetto. Though not as dark, and lacking the distinct raspberry notes of the Moro orange, Tarocco or Sanguinello, the two other main cultivars of the fruit, would also be excellent here.
If you are the type to plan ahead, juice the blood oranges now and freeze the juice to use in the summer. DO NOT MAKE THE SORBETTO NOW IF YOU ARE NOT GOING TO EAT IT NOW. As Faith Willinger says “The freezer is not an archive.” Homemade sorbetti are best used within a couple of days of being made.
The sorbetto recipe is from Gelato! by Pamela Sheldon Johns and is reprinted here with the author’s permission. This little jewel of a book provides an entree to the world of frozen Italian treats. With wonderful recipes and a wealth of background information, this book will tell you what you need to know to make authentic Italian gelati and sorbetti in your own kitchen. For another taste from Gelato! click here for Pamela’s recipe for Blackberry-Sangiovese Sorbetto.
Churn the sorbetto base just until it is the texture of a thick, but pourable smoothie. The recipe calls for an egg white to stabilize the sorbetto, while adding volume and contributing a creamy consistency. I omitted the egg white because I wanted a dense sorbetto with concentrated flavor. The alcohol prevented the sorbetto from freezing too hard, and since I knew we’d consume this within a day, I had no need for the preservative properties of the egg white. If you elect to use an egg white I suggest using a pasteurized egg white as this base is not cooked. See Cook’s Notes below for more on the subject of raw and pasteurized egg whites.
The floral notes of Hendrick’s gin and the singed orange peel flavor of the Cocchi Vermouth are particularly complementary to the Blood Orange-Campari Sorbetto.
1 ounce Campari
1 ounce Hendrick’s gin
1 ounce Cocchi vermouth
Blood Orange-Campari Sorbetto (recipe follows)
orange wheel for garnish
Pour the Campari, Hendrick’s gin, and Cocchi vermouth into a highball glass. Use a bar spoon to stir well. Add 3 or 4 scoops of Blood Orange-Campari Sorbetto. Do not stint with the sorbetto. It is what gives this baby its character. Top with Prosecco and garnish with 1 or 2 orange wheels.
Serve at once and toast “To Fosco Scarselli, inventor of the Negroni, gone but not forgotten.” Play Trivioni, a lighthearted romp through the history of this most storied libation. The questions and answers are below.
Cook’s notes: The CDC recommends that consumption of raw or undercooked eggs should be avoided, especially by young children, elderly persons, and persons with weakened immune systems or debilitating illness. Davidson’s Safest Eggs are whole, pasteurized eggs. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has determined that Davidson’s in-shell pasteurization process renders the eggs safe for use without cooking.
Note: You can click on any picture to see a slide show!
I have no affiliation with any product, manufacturer, or site mentioned in this article.