It is extremely fascinating to see how sometimes some cocktails are linked to the historical course of a country and how they are an integral part of a food and wine culture of a country.
After five years of continuous research, gathering information and testimonies around Italy and endoring the invaluable help of Prof. Erasmus director of Joseph USD, secretary of the Higher Institute of Religious Sciences that I deeply thank, I was able to clarify the historical course as charming as the complex of the cardinal cocktail. All began at the Orum Bar, located inside the hotel Excelsior in Rome, now the Westin Excelsior is still a fundamental landmark of the capital. It is precisely in this bar that in the 50 ‘s a cocktail was born, destined to become a symbol of the Roman mixing: the cardinal.
At the Orum bar worked barmen of the calibreoy of Alfredo De Meis (who in the years of the I World War has worked at Excelsior and then continued his career at the Ritz in London, New York and awarded the gold Medal of Tourism) Renato Rossi, Sacco, Nino Casamassima that in the 40’s – 50’s with a little bar trolley use to prepare cocktails (including the Cardinal) In front of the customers, Giovanni Raimondo the one who gave birth to this cocktail.
It all started in 1937 when the opening of Cinecittà film studios was inaugurated in Rome
On June 5, 1944, General Clark at the 2nd floor balcony of the Excelsior announced the end of World War II. The end of Autarchy, set by the Minister of Popular Culture (minculpop) led to flood the capital with swing and jazz rhythms. It is the years where Neorealism expresses its best. Rome after many years of autarchy with consumption of coffee and anise “with the sketch”, Cordial and Verouth, began to open to the new world, experiencing new flavors to satisfy a different clientels and more sought after in the G In tastes. In Rome they began to turn little-known distillates such as Whisky, gin and the presence of Americans in Rome brought an impulse to the consumption of the first cocktails. In A short time the Roman facilities had to recruit staff who knew how to speak good English and who knew how to meet the needs of an international clientele. In short, it witnessed a two-speed Rome: Built on the past, but facing the future, a crossroads of modernity and antiquity
The most famous streets of Rome, in short, became the stage of the high society and Via Veneto the cradle of Rome. The bars of Via Veneto became a meeting place for international worldliness.
The 50 ‘s were the first moment of wellbeing for Italy, the Italian creativity was married with industrial production witnessed the birth of Lambretta, the Vespa and Olivetti, symbols of a carefree Italy in a fast age, where the early stages of well-being brought an unstoppable wave of optimism and happiness.
Cinecitta ‘ became an American production destination, dedicated mainly to ancient Rome with the so-called “Sandaloni” films. The growth of film production, partly due also to a law, which prevented the gains made by foreign producers could be exported abroad. This resulted in an increase in film production with the birth of the colossal as Ben Hur (directed by William Wyler, with a troupe of 40 people and cost about 15 million dollars) and Quo Vadis which saw the increase in the employment of thousands of People.
Rome lived with the cinematography and the Hotel Excelsior was the point of reference for actors, filmmakers, industrialists and entrepreneurs and soon became a showcase that made the dream of all Italians and the bar of the Excelsior, as well as being a showcase of Reputation, where contracts and engagements were signed, It became “The place where dreams were cradly”. In those years the Shah of Persia and Princess Soraya were protagonists of the Roman worldly life and frequenters of the Orum bar, residing in Rome for about three years (between 1956 to 1958)
But the real revelation of those years, was the birth of public television, and one of the first evidence in the exterior, was made right in Via Veneto “at the Coffee Witch”.
On February 18, 1946, Pope Pius XII, at the end of the war, held his first consistory for the creation of new cardinals since for the first time in centuries, the number of Italian cardinals was lower than that of non-Italian cardinals. Emblematic figure of this wonderful story, which sees lay and Christian protagonists was FRANCIS JOSEPH Spellman who received the cardinal’s Berrette from Pope Pius XII (the same cardinal Biretta who had been of Pope Pius XII). Worldly and fond of the beautiful life, his influence was very strong, so much to deserve the nickname of «Pope American».
According to some critics, Spellman would provide the inspiration for the American writer Henry Morton Robinson to give shape to Stephen Fermoyle, the protagonist of the novel The Cardinal published in 1950, from which was drawn the eponymous film of Otto Preminger of 1963.
In this novel, and especially in the film, according to these critics, are described both some events and the atmosphere of the Roman period of Cardinal Spellman.
In 1950 in an international horizon laden with tensions and full of wounds left by the Second World War and with Alcide De Gasperi Prime Minister, in Rome the Jubilee was held, with the greatest number of participants (almost three million pilgrims). From the testimonies collected, the most reliable version is that one day the cardinal went to the bar of the Excelsior (Orum Bar) and the bench was Giovanni Raimondo (the first barman) prominent figure of the bar, who with the grace of a true gentleman, welcomed the cardinal in Due ways and asked him What he wanted to drink. The cardinal was an admirer of the Moselle Riesling, so he initially asked for his usual wine, but given the time, Raymond kindly proposed to Cardinal Spillman a tailor-made cocktail for him, with a riesling base. Spilmann without hesitation accepted and intrigued by the inspiration and preparation of this barman, seeing him at work, immediately realized that something historical was happening. Raimondo in a warm pantographed glass he put some ice cubes, of gin, Campari bitter and riesling of the Moselle, to finish the guarnì with lemon peel, cinnamon and clove. Given the Cardinalizi colors and the personalized preparation of this cocktail, John Raymond without any hesitation, turned to the cardinal saying: The cardinal is served..
Original Cardinal recipe
1/3 Riesling Rhine
1/3 of Campari Bitter
Decoration: Lemon peel, cinnamon and clove
In a frame like that of the Hotel Excelsior, where the glamour was at home and with a cosmopolitan clientele, the cardinal in a short time arrived overseas and became for all the cocktail of the “Dolce Vita”
Later, Raymond asked his guest to modify his recipe by creating the first twisted Negroni in history: Raymond replaced the red vermouth with the dry and left only the lemon peel. A cookbook of the 50’s reports these proportions:
Recipe of Cardinal of the years 50 ‘
3/6 of gin
2/6 Vermouth Dry
1/6 of Campari Bitter
Prepared in mixing glass with lemon peel
The Orum bar and the Cardinal prepared today at the “Orum Bar” of the Westin Excelsior in Rome
A bar in Art Deco style, today with my bar team formed by Angelo Donnaloia (President Aibes), Daniele de Santis, Matteo Catalano, Francesco Di Carlo, Kanji, we propose an interpretative mixing, whose aim is not only to prepare drinks that are good and well presented, but that are rich in active ingredients, where alcohol acts as a solvent and Not only from the cocktail’s structural ingredient. From this idea, are born six fragrances of author, prepared and conceived by us, with the help of a small alembic, in order to personalize our drinks, focusing on the olfactory and terpene notes that combined with a vibe and an Italian hospitality , makes the stay of our guests a truly unique moment in complete relaxation that we can not forget. Over the years the taste has gone more and more to evolve and to improve, so I thought it appropriate to have to change the proportions of the cardinal as well as his adjuvant, so resuming the original recipe, the Riesling of the Moselle was thought to replace it to a Enolito, that is a medicamentous wine to which it is put ID infusion in addition to the clove, cinnamon and orange peel some medicinal herbs, rich of active ingredients and decidedly polite in taste, making this cocktail extremely complex and balanced both to the Taste that to the smell, encountering the contemporary palate. Focusing on wanting to leave our guests an experiential memory, using my skills in galenic and herbal art with the help of my team to whom I thank, at the Orum bar, I conceived a small beauty Kit to donate to our customers, made up of A body cream made with a cardinal cocktail base, natural and ingestible, rich in active ingredients, to be put on the skin and a cocoa butter, always base cardinal cocktail, to put on the lips, a way to become part of the world of our guests…, and Having a lot of success and interest also from some magazines like “Vanity Fair that on the first issue of January
January has dedicated us an article about this cocktail beauty kit. ”
Resuming the style of service undertaken in the years 50 ‘ by the well-known barman of then “Nino Casamassima, today as then, the Cardinal is prepared in a cocktail cart in front of the customer.
Luca di Francia
Head Barman Orum Bar
at Westin Excelsior