A Roman cocktail has entered the global bartender's bible

May 15 2024, 15:14
Born in the 1950s on Via Veneto, the Cardinal has made it into the official IBA guide, the most important list of drinks in the world

It's been over 70 years since its birth, and now the Cardinal, created at the Westin Excelsior Hotel in Rome, is entering the most important anthology of cocktails, the official and global guide of the IBA, International Bartenders Association, the true bible of bartenders.

The (re)birth of the 1950s

When it was invented, Rome was leaving behind the dark times of war and was about to become the center of the international jet set. It was the 1950s and Via Veneto, with the presence of the US embassy, was an extension of the United States, while celebrities from all over the world began to gather at the bar tables immortalized with a glass in hand. Wine, whiskey, often cocktails. Among these was also an Italian-made, or rather, made in Rome, cocktail, on that same street photographed in newspapers around the world. It was the Cardinal, which could be described simply as a drier relative of the Negroni, differing essentially for the use of Dry Vermouth instead of Red Vermouth.

Prepared in the mixing glass and served in a coupe without ice and with a lemon peel, its birth is credited to Giovanni Raimondo, the bartender at the Excelsior bar of the time, who had international experiences, especially on the Côte d'Azur. The story - quite romanticized to tell the truth - has it that the name is a tribute to the German cardinal Francis Joseph Spellman (and not for Shultz or Shumann as is erroneously believed), called the American Pope, a man of church and power, lover of the good life and a great enthusiast of Moselle Riesling, which he drank mixed with gin and Bitter Campari, enriched with cloves, cinnamon, and lemon peel (a drink very similar to a French drink from the 1920s, called Cardinal). Version 2.0 - with 3/6 gin, 1/6 Campari, and 2/6 Riesling enolite - is said to have been suggested to the cardinal by Giovanni Raimondo himself, who modified the recipe a bit, eliminating the spices, leaving only the lemon peel.

So Raimondo sealed the fate of that cardinal-red drink, while the international clientele that frequented Via Veneto contributed to its popularity beyond borders. However, in the early 1980s, the Cardinal fell into oblivion until Luca di Francia, the bartender at the same Excelsior bar, now called Orum, decided to bring it back to life and give it the attention it deserves. Today he serves 50 of them a day, in the original version, in a coupe reminiscent of those of the 1950s, or in twists enriched with homemade alcoholic essences; also restored the trolley for table service, just like in the 1950s.

Luca di Francia, together with the entire staff (Angelo Donnaloia, Daniele De Santis, and Francesco Di Carlo, Fulvio o Monaco), decided to give visibility to this drink with a dedicated menu (with dry or delicate variations), retracing its history and documenting its spread, in Italy and abroad. It is thanks to this that the IBA has decided to include the Cardinal in its manual, on page 204, but in a slightly modified version: 40 cl gin, 2 cl dry vermouth, 1 cl Campari.

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