Acustomer in a bar: “Fosco, an Americano à la Conte Negroni, for me and my guest, please.”
“Coming right up, sir.”
“See, Fosco? You just need to be a little bold, and immediately people will fall in love with change, novelty, innovation. It’s the variations on a theme that make something unique: consider classical music, for example. There, the real edge comes from a rebel violinist.”
“You are right, Mr Conte. I have no doubts about it, but as a bartender, I only deal with mixes. And people. And people mixed with their stories.”
Speaking of which, have I already
told you the story of when
I was a cowboy in Wyoming?”
“Yes, Mr Conte, when you took your cattle to Canada, to the Saskatchewan markets. I think I know it, but please tell me one more time, I’m listening. I’m sure you’ll make it even more interesting this time around.”
“And have I told you about my fencing school on Madison Avenue in New York?”
“Yes, that too, Mr Conte.”
“What about how I met Anta? My beloved Anta*?"
“That one, Mr Conte, is one of your best stories: every time you tell it, you light up with love.”
“Oh I see, Fosco. Evidently then, we’re always talking about me, and never about you. Please tell me: how did you end up here at Café Casoni?”
“I don’t think mine would be an interesting story, Mr Conte.”
“Come on, give me something new to tell my friends I’m about to join in the Grand Hotel lounge. The story of an extraordinary barman who’s open to experimentation. Please give me a story they haven’t already heard. They already know my adventures all too well.”
“Maybe I could talk about my imprisonment. But I might as well not, considering the unhappiness I felt during that time.”
“Still you haven’t given me the interesting story I asked for.”
“Well, Mr Conte, you could tell them that you pop up here every day at the same time, enthralling everyone with one of your anecdotes, sipping an Americano with your own style. A “Negroni,” as the other customers of the Café Casoni have started to call it. Did you know?
You’ve invented a cocktail
one I am sure people will still talk about in a hundred years! Why not tell your friends about this?”
“Fosco, please don’t talk nonsense. I only asked you to tweak my cocktail with gin, inspired by my last trip to London. It was you who mixed it.
Gin, Vermouth and Campari:
so simple, so complex. It’s there before everyone’s eyes, but not within everyone’s reach.”
“I am always happy to please you and change any ingredient you like.”
“However, be careful, my dear barman, there is an ingredient that I would never change: Campari. Campari is the red heart of an Americano as well as of the invention—as you call it—of this new cocktail. Fosco, you just performed a miracle!”
“A miracle! That’s an exaggeration! This change is all thanks to you, and why the other customers call the new mix after your own name: a Negroni.”
“They ask for “a Negroni”…
This is a great story
to tell, Fosco!”
“But, forgive me for asking, aren’t you late for your appointment?”
“My friends can wait a few more minutes. When you’re here I always like to linger a bit longer, you are such a good listener.”
“Dear Mr Conte, bartenders are the descendants of alchemists and jesters. They change according to whom they are facing. They’re psychics as well as inventors. They’re psychologists as well as confessors: bartenders listen to the stories of patrons and turn their words into mixes.”
And you Fosco, you are like that, just like our
Complex, gentlemanly, shrouded
in resolute mystery.”
*During his time in America, the Conte met Antonietta “Anta” Zazworka, who migrated from Prague to the United States and would go on to marry him in 1903.
Story freely inspired by “Negroni cocktail. Una leggenda italiana” by Luca Picchi, 2015 Giunti Editore S.p.A.