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What Even is a “Negroni Sbagliato”

Words: Shamim de Brún
Images: Unsplash

Squadra che vince non si cambia—“never change a winning team”- and the House of Dragon folks with a round of “Negroni Sbagliato with prosecco in it” is a winning team.

The sbagliato cocktail is having its fifteen minutes on the Internet today, thanks to House of the Dragon star Emma D’Arcy.

The Fuss

If you’re not a GOT come HOTD fan, then here’s the recap: co-stars Emma D’Arcy (Rhaenyra Targaryen) and Olivia Cooke (Alicent Hightower) appeared in an HBO Max interview discussing their favourite cocktails.

“What’s your drink of choice?” Olivia asks Emma.

“A negroni,” Emma replies. “Sbagliato, with Prosecco in it.”

@hbomax I’ll take one of each. #houseofthedragon ♬ original sound – hbomax

And, then… the internet lost its collective mind as it does bi-weekly at this stage. But What is this salacious negroni? Why does it have prosecco in it? And how have we never heard of it?

The Drink Itself

To get technical, a classic negroni is equal parts gin, sweet vermouth and Campari. Whereas a sbagliato uses the 2:1:1 ratio of sparkling wine, sweet vermouth and Campari. Campari is a more bitter Aperol style  bitter apéritif.

The Sbagliato is a much lighter style of Negroni. Perfect for those that love a little bitter in their cocktail but not the knock-you-on-your-ear strength. The drink isn’t altogether unheard of. It is, however, a twist on a classic that had yet to go household-name-level mainstream. Personally, I’d order one if I was in Italy, but was wouldn’t have sought it out in Dublin. It’s a more modern, bright, and bubbly variation.

The Origin Story

Purportedly in the 1970s when Milanese bar owner Mirko Stocchetto somehow mistook a bottle of sparkling wine for gin while preparing a Negroni at Bar Basso, resulting in this happy, delicious mistake. I find this less credible because the shapes and weights of these bottles are vastly different. They also tend to live in different areas of any bar. Any bartender would likely know the difference without looking unless it was very early in their career.

Around half a century later, the riff is still a superstar because it’s part of an early era of cocktail innovation. Back then, it was possible to do a lot with little. These days we’re not really impressed by a new cocktail unless it has a barrel-aged syrup made from bartenders tears.

The Success

This little ditty has enjoyed even greater glory amid recent spritz mania. It occupies the ideal middle ground between an Aperol Spritz and a Negroni. It’s pleasantly more bitter and alcoholic than a spritz while also being more approachable to most than the historically boozy classic Negroni.

In drink nerd books, the absence of the gin leaves room for the sparkling complexity of a good Prosecco. Ideally, a Brut one.

Give It A Go

If you’re looking to try one, I reckon it’ll be on special at every corner of Dublin this weekend, but it’s been a mainstay at Uno Pizza for a while now, so I reckon they’ll have the best version.

If you wanna give it a go yourself, it’s relatively interesting. Use the golden 2:1:1 ratio and pour Prosecco into an ice-filled large wine or rocks glass. Add vermouth and Campari. Gently stir together; garnish with orange skin or some other citrus fruit you have lying around. If it’s too boozy for you, top it off with some club soda.

Elsewhere on CHAR: Why I Hate The Word Foodie