Negroni Float – Barman meets Soda Jerk

Blood Orange-Campari Sorbetto in a Negroni splashed with Prosecco

Negroni Float

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.

Negroni PosterThere 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.

Negroni Float

Negroni Float

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

Negroni Float Ingredients

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.

Blood Orange Campari-Sorbetto

Campari is a bitter aperitif with a glorious color similar to that of blood oranges. This sorbetto is also good made with grapefruits (increase the sugar to 1 ½ cups.)

10 blood oranges
1 cup sugar
1 egg white
¼ cup Campari

Squeeze 9 of the oranges, reserving 1 orange for garnish. You should have about 3 cups of juice. In a medium bowl, combine the orange juice and sugar and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or until chilled.

Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions until partially frozen. Add the egg white and continue to freeze until firm. Add the Campari and continue to freeze until firm again.

Peel the remaining orange and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices. Serve the sorbets garnished with the slices.
Makes 1 quart; serves 4

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.

Trivioni Play Cards


Q. What drink begat the Negroni?
A. The Americano, when the seltzer was replaced with gin

Q. What’s in a Negroni?
A. Campari, Italian Vermouth, Gin, and orange

Q. In what James Bond film did 007 imbibe a Negroni?
A. For Your Eyes Only

Q. And what is Bond’s preferred gin?
A. Gordon’s

Q. When was the Negroni invented?
A. 1919

Q. Who invented the Negroni?
A. Barman Fosco Scarselli at Florence’s Caffe Giacosa

Q. For whom was it invented?
A. Count Camillo Negroni

Q. When is a Negroni not a Negroni?
A. When it is a Negroni sbagliato – a bungled Negroni – with Prosecco used in place of the gin

Q. Who invented the Negroni sbagliato?
A. Barman Mirko Stocchetto of Milan’s Bar Basso in the late 1960’s

Q. Who said this of a Negroni “The bitters are excellent for your liver, the gin is bad for you. They balance each other.”?
A. Orson Welles

Q. What was the original name of the Americano?
A. The Milano-Torino, for the Campari from Milano and the Cinzano vermouth from Torino

Q. How did the Milano-Torino come to be called the Americano?
A. It became the favorite of Americans visiting Italy, and Italy’s barmen started calling it “L’Americano”

Q. In what James Bond film did our hero order an Americano?
A. Casino Royale

Q. And what popular drink using Cynar can call the Negroni Babbo?
A. The Cyn-Cin

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.

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  1. Comment by Maria | Pink Patisserie:

    That has got to be one of the most gorgeous drinks I’ve seen. I’ve surprisingly, all of those ingredients so I think I’m going to have to give this one a try. Yum!

  2. Comment by 2 Sisters Recipes:

    My Husband would go bonkers for this Negroni! Beautifully written and photographed. Complimenti!

  3. Comment by Due Spaghetti:

    Lovely post and photographs! There’s nothing like dressing up gelato or sorbetto with a little hooch. : )

  4. Comment by Jamie:

    Wow, Adri, this sorbetto is absolutely stunning! I am fascinated by your story, of the cocktails and your story of soda fountains and pink whipped cream. A joy to read! And *swoon* I must make this sorbetto. I have made fruit + prosecco sorbetto and now onto this. And no worry, this won\’t last more than a couple of days. Gorgeous photos, too!

  5. Comment by Stacy | Wicked Good Kitchen:

    Adri, you have a fan for life in me! This is, hands down, my favorite post of yours. A Negroni Float! So incredibly creative, girl. Love the Orson Welles quote as well as the backstory and wonderful trivioni. My favorite part though? Your love for bowls of pink sweetened whipped cream! Priceless. It’s all a girl really needs though, right? Meanwhile, I cannot wait to make this cocktail. It’s perfect for spring. Now I know what else I can mix up with my bottle of Campari. 😉 Thanks for sharing!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Stacy,

      You made my day. I am so glad you enjoyed this one. I sure enjoyed the whipped cream, and even after all these years my sister, Toni, still reminds me about how I used to devour it. I’m glad you liked the Orson Welles quote too. I got a kick out of it I’m only sorry that Black Magic is not available on Netflix. I figure I ought to have a Negroni Float and watch the film. Cheers, and thanks for stopping by!

  6. Comment by Pam@MyNewlywedCookingAdventures:

    You are such an inventive chef! I love the story behind the creation of this. I too live soda fountains. There\’s a great one called Sip n Soda in Southhampton that I love and one here in Grants Pass, Oregon in an old traditional pharmacy!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Pam,

      Those old places have so much character. They are a little bit of old time America, especially the ones in the pharmacies! Thanks for the kind words. Have a soda today!

  7. Comment by Juliana:

    What a beautiful drink Adri…I would love to come home and have this waiting for me after a long day at work…love the color and yes, gin, sorbetto…whatelse could I ask for?
    Thanks for this awesome post…hope you are having a fantastic week 😀

  8. Comment by Cathy at Wives with Knives:

    Oh my, this cocktail looks delicious. I’m not a big Campari fan but I have a feeling I would enjoy this.

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Cathy,

      This one is pretty tasty alright. How do you feel about Aperol? It would be wonderful here in place of the Campari. Cheers!

  9. Comment by Roz:

    Oh my goodness gracious Adri. . . is this just cocktail just liquid bliss? I could drink this straight from my computer screen if possible . . . damn it, why is it not possible? I feel like I\’m in Rome right now!


  10. Comment by daniela64:

    Favoloso! Fantastica la presentazione . Un saluto Daniela.

  11. Comment by amy @ fearless homemaker:

    Per usual, you’ve come up with an amazing recipe! This looks and sounds so wonderfully refreshing!

  12. Comment by Karen:

    What?! I’ll be right over! This drink looks over the top wonderful.

  13. Comment by Trisha Thomas:

    It’s 7pm here in Rome as I am reading this and let me tell you I could use one of those Negroni floats for an apertivo right this second!! Ah, it is beautiful and I am sure delicious too!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Trisha,

      Yes, I would say 7 PM is Negroni Float time. Especially after one of your days chasing after the news. Thanks for stopping by, and cheers!

  14. Comment by vanillasugarblog:

    LOVE the orson wells quote–so true!
    And these soda jerks should be a staple in the hot summer here on cape cod.

  15. Comment by Liz:

    LOL…I love the quote….AND the gorgeous float! Blood oranges certainly add a stunning twist to this cocktail/dessert!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Liz,

      I could not resist the quote. I came upon it ages ago, and saved it in my files. I saw the recipe for the sorbetto and I just knew the perfect thing to do with it! Cheers and thank you for visiting.

  16. Comment by ela@GrayApron:

    That would be my favorite Summer drink! Never actually had it, so BIG thanks the introduction! Grazie! 🙂 ela

  17. Comment by Rosa:

    Divine! That is such a wonderful cocktail.



  18. Comment by Bam's Kitchen:

    Adri, your Negroni Float is over the top. Great post! I loved everything from the Orsen Welles’ quotes, to the story behind the Negroni drinks, to you eating mounds of pink whipped cream. I can just imagine how wonderful this tastes. I can make Pamela’s Blackberry Sorbet for my boys and the Negroni drinks for mom and dad and when the boys head off to sleep we can crack out the sorbet again and make one of these delightful treats. Your Negroni floats look super refreshing. Have a super week and take care. BAM

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Bam,

      Thank you for the kind words. The history of this drink and all the others it has spawned is really something. Talk about a family tree. And isn’t it something how I moved from pink whipped cream to a Italian cocktails. That’s a heck of a culinary journey. It looks like there is something for everyone in your family here! Enjoy!

  19. Comment by Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella:

    What a delightful looking float! When we visited the US last year we went to a soda fountain. It was so much fun and still decked out as it was decades ago 🙂

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Lorraine,

      Thanks! I love old fashioned soda fountains. Alas, there are very few still here in Los Angeles, but we still seek out the remaining one for a nice sundae, float or shake.

  20. Comment by TheKitchenLioness:

    Dear Adri, what an excellent post – the background information is just fabulous, the recipe for the sorbetto looks fabulous and the pictures fabulous. Everything looks so perfect and elegant. Moro oranges have such a short season but I always look forward to it, I simply cannot get enough of those deep, dark, delicious blood oranges from Italy. I think I will follow your advice, and freeze the juice, hopefully, I will still be able to get some this week as I would really like to try the sorbetto in early summertime.
    Thanks for another amazing post!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi ANdrea,

      I am so glad you enjoyed this one, and thank you for all the kind words. The idea of a Negroni Float was just SO over the top I could not resist. I hope you can still find Moro oranges, but if you can not, the Tarocco or Sanguinelli oranges are also wonderful. I have used all three cultivars with great success.

  21. Comment by LA_Foodie:

    Perfect… I’m now ready for summer. A fantastic combo!

  22. Comment by Maureen:

    The Bungled Negroni for me, please! I loved this post and I’m pretty fond of a negroni too. 🙂

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Maureen,

      It’s always great to discover another friend enjoys a Negroni. As Rick in Casablanca said “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” Cheers!

  23. Comment by Chiara:

    Che splendido post Adri, fa voglia d’estate e di cocktail…proverò questo sorbetto sembra buonissimo ! Buona settimana, un bacione!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Ciao Chiara,

      Grazie! Questo sorbetto e davvero buonissimo. È una ricetta da Pamela Sheldon Johns. Sono sicuro che ti piacerà. Un bacione a te!

  24. Comment by Laney:

    So much wonderful information and beautiful photos! (But we expect nothing less from you!) As a Campari lover, this is right up my alley…plus love the trivioni for drinking entertainment. Now I’m one step closer to buying that gelato machine…

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Laney,

      This one was fun, and I have to say that it was pretty darn decadent – a Negroni topped with Prosecco and sorbetto. I say get thee to the cookware store!

  25. Comment by cheri:

    What a great post that has a little of everything, beautiful pics too! Will have to try this now for sure. Thanks for sharing!

  26. Comment by John@Kitchen Riffs:

    The Negroni is such a great drink! Even if I didn’t much like Campari in other things (although I do, a lot) I’d keep a bottle around just to I could mix a Negroni from time to time. I love your Negroni Float. So creative! This is truly brilliant — brava! Excellent recipe — thanks.

  27. Comment by Ciao Chow Linda:

    You are the Negroni authority, that’s for sure. All your effort pays off in this well-researched, well-written, and beautifully photographed post. It’s funny, just today I was flipping through old issues of La Cucina Italiana and saw a recipe for Negroni sbagliato. By the way, I really love those glasses. So very elegant and sophisticated. I used to have some of the silver rimmed ones but alas, I got rid of them decades ago. Now I am kicking myself! That Hendrick’s gin is something I just tried recently and am so sold on it too.

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Linda,

      A Negroni is a very good drink, and I am glad it could stand up to my over the top treatment! Funny you should have been flipping through an old La Cucina Italiana. I wonder why… I am glad you like the glasses, but terribly sorry to hear you ditched yours. They are classics from Dorothy Thorpe. The lady had glass. Cheers!

  28. Comment by Daniela:

    What a lovely blog!
    Fun to read, interesting very stylish recipes and very well written.
    Negroni is going to be my next summer drink.
    Thanks for your visit and comment at my blog!

  29. Comment by speedy70:

    Fantastico questo sorbetto, da rifare, grazie!!!!!

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