When I was in Florence with Bombay Sapphire, we had an education session by Luca Picchi. Picchi has taken it upon himself to study the history of the Negroni cocktail and the man who inspired its creation.
He published a book, "Sulle Tracce Del Conte" about the life of Cammillo Negroni. The book has been translated into English and may be available at Tales of the Cocktail this year (Picchi will be there) if they settle some international copyright issues.
According to Picchi, Negroni was an Italian playboy who fathered an illegitimate child and decided it was best to skedaddle. He moved to the United States and became a big cattle rancher near Saskatchewan, Canada.
He moved back to Italy in 1912, and wasn't welcome in Florence initially,but soon enough he was frequenting the bars of the city.
It was at Cafe Casoni where the drink bearing his name was invented. Negroni would frequent the place and asked for something stronger than his usual Americano. The bartender replaced the soda water with gin and the drink was born.
Currently, Picchi works at Caffe Rivoire and I stopped in for a drink. (If I remember correctly, Casoni and Rivoire had the same owners, and now Casoni is a store owned by Roberto Cavalli, so Rivoire is considered the inheritor of the Negroni legacy.)
Living in San Francisco, I thought that all Negronis were made the way they make them here- stirred, served up, and garnished with an orange or lemon twist. Not so!
This is not the case in Italy, where Negronis are always made on the rocks and with an orange slice (rather than peel) garnish. I stopped in to Rivoire for a Negroni (or two) from Picchi, and on a hot day on Florence it was delicious.
At the bar, they have a plaque dedicated to the Negroni. I think it may be the same plaque that was once at Casoni.
Thanks to Francesco Lafranconi who translated the plaque for me:
In the mid-twenties, between these walls, inspired by glutton delicacies, Count Camillo Negroni would add some gin to the existing Americano recipe, which he used to enjoy daily with friends.
This practice made Count Negroni the undisputed inventor of the Negroni and he was responsible for spreading it among the jet set society of that time.
A note of recognition and appreciation also go to Alfonso Scarselli the first skillful barman to have mix that recipe based on the Count request and the support of the Bardelli Brothers, the current owners, which keep promoting the legacy of the birthplace of the Negroni.
So, if you happen to be traveling to Florence any time soon, I recommend that you stop in to the Caffe Rivoire to have a Negroni from Luca Picchi.