Cocktail history is full of small instances or snap decisions that go on to live in the cocktail canon. The Cardinale is a perfect example of this, and although the riff is minor, its effect is not. Legend has it that the cocktail was first created in the 1950s by Giovanni Raimondo at the Hotel Excelsior.
It was mixed for a German cardinal who frequented the hotel bar in search of refreshment. Giovanni presented him with the drink and explained his use of dry vermouth instead of sweet. His goal was to match the color of the cardinal’s robes, and, as they say, the rest is history.