I have seen the Futurism: the Negroni

Above: A Negroni at Annies in Austin, the latest addition to the restaurant and nightlife scene here. Not bad for a snap taken with my Blackberry Curve, eh?

No one needs me to retell the story of the Negroni: the tale of Count Camillo Negroni and the cocktail named after him has been retold countless times (however apocryphal those chestnuts may be).

But what few remember these days is that the Negroni was one of the favorite cocktails of the Futurists, the avant-garde movement founded in 1913 by F.T. Marinetti (often called the father of the historical avante-garde). The Negroni — made with Campari, the quintessential Futurist bitters — was one of their polibibite or polybeverages, each intended to stimulate the idealized Futurist (in one way or another).

Yesterday evening, when I tasted a Negroni at the newly opened Annies Café and Bar on Congress in downtown Austin, I couldn’t help but think of the Futurist banquet I attended in 1993 at the Getty Villa in Malibu. (A few years later, I worked as one of the bibliographers of the Marinetti archive at the Getty’s Special Collections.)

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how Futurism and the historical avante-garde were essentially self-destructive movements, like much of twentieth-century critical theory: by destroying its fathers (and mothers, for that matter), the historical avante-garde presupposed its own destruction by future generations.

But the cocktails sure were good…

The Negroni at Annies wasn’t bad (although it should have served with an orange wedge or orange zest). The Lousiana-style gumbo I sampled wasn’t bad either. Seems like they have a few kinks to iron out there but I’ll be back: I liked the feel of the place, the hipster mixology, and the old-time music they had going.

11 thoughts on “I have seen the Futurism: the Negroni

  1. Indeed JP, in Italy a Campari-based drink without orange is a cultural faux-pas akin to swimming less than four hours after lunch or walking on a tiled floor without ciabatte. (Campari with lemon on the other hand is a crime beyond comprehension.)

    Personally, I’ve always found Negroni a little too potent for my delicate tastes, preferring the lighter alternative, Americano, as my aperitivo of choice.

    Of course, few pleasures in life compare to the simple perfection that is Campari Soda (whose iconic conical bottle was designed by Futurist Fortunato Depero). It’s one of the things I miss most about Italy, to the extent that I am overcome with longing everytime I see those lamps by Ingo Maurer suspended above the bar at Enoteca I Trulli.

    Incidentally, my friend Jessica Palmieri founded the website italianfuturism.org — she’s more of an Aperol drinker but I’m sure she’ll be thrilled by this post!

  2. One splendid variation on the Negroni is the Buñueloni, a drink invented by, and consumed with fine regularity by, the Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel. Buñuel, who as an artist and a Surrealist knew that there was no real lucubration without gin, also drank Martinis (there are two splendid recipes for Martinis in his autobiography “My Last Sigh,” written with his scenarist Jean-Claude Carrière).

    The Buñueloni is a Negroni in which the fine aperitif Punt e Mes substitutes for the Campari. Most Buñueloni recipes call for 3/4 of an ounce of sweet Vermouth, 3/4 of an ounce of Pent e Mes, and an ounce of gin. But in deference to the master, wouldn’t one/one/two be more appropriate? Or even one/one/three?

    As for the sweet vermouth, I would hold that Carpano “Antica Formula” would be the most canonical; but others feel that Martini & Rossi red vermouth makes for a better cocktail.

  3. As much as a I love Negroni, I think the Negroni Sbagliato reigns supreme. As you probably know, it is composed of Aperol, Prosecco, and sweet vermouth (and a slice of orange of course). I just downed a couple on my B-Day in Gallipoli overlooking the beautiful Ionian Sea. Thanks for filling me in on the Futurism!

  4. @Howard we’ll have to drink Buñueloni the next time we see each other! I am a fan of Punt e Mes but Carpano Antica Formula is a cut above the rest! I’m thirsting for Buñuel’s autobiography now!

    @Mattie happy birthday! Watch out for the Futurists! ;-)

  5. I wouldn’t put Carpano in anything except a clean glass…

    I do love a negroni and the weather is perfect for it, self destructive proto-fascist art movements aside.

  6. I just returned to the Master and stand corrected: Buñuel and Parzen are in very fine sync here.

    Buñuel writes:

    “After the dry martini comes one of my own modest inventions, the Buñueloni, best drunk before dinner. It’s really a takeoff on the famous Negroni, but instead of mixing Campari, gin, and sweet vermouth, I substitute Carpano for the Campari. Here again, the gin–in sufficient quantity to ensure its dominance over the other two ingredients–has excellent effects on the imagination. I’ve no idea how or why; I only know that it works.”

    I have for years been using Punt e Mes as the closest thing to Carpano I could find–but now that the Antica Formula is available, let’s go to town!

  7. Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I manage the bar at Annie’s and can say that according to our specifications the Negroni is to be garnished with a flamed orange peel. I will also make sure that the crime of lemon is never perpetrated upon this drink!

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