Like any good internet meme, the negroni sbagliato emerged from nowhere overnight, rocketing a little-known Italian beverage into the collective consciousness thanks to an off-the-cuff remark.
While it seemed like a fad at the time, the beverage itself actually has deep roots and a richer history than the attention span of the internet would seem to suggest.
Here’s our explainer on how an obscure drink suddenly became the tipple of choice for the permanently online. We’re spilling on how to make a negroni sbagliato, the background to the drink, and how the hell you pronounce this famous-for-15-minute drink.
Negroni Sbagliato Pronunciation
Let’s get you ordering right, first up. If you’re going to fake it till you make it with this classy beverage, at least make sure you can actually say its name properly.
Say it with me, the mash of letters above that looks like I slipped on the keyboard is pronounced ‘Spag-lee-ah-toh, with the stress on the first and third syllable.
Of course, the word being Italian, that’s not exactly how it would be pronounced in its country of origin. If you want to step up the class and aren’t afraid of coming across as better than everyone else (because you totally will), you can give it the ‘Spah-lee-ah-toh’, skipping the hard ‘G’ sound in the first syllable.
Whatever you do, just don’t want to walk up to the bartender and confidently ask for an ‘Es-bag-lee-ay-toh.’
What is a Negroni Sbagliato?
The name negroni sbagliato means ‘broken’ or ‘mistaken’ negroni. It’s your regular negroni, traditionally made with equal parts gin, vermouth, and Campari, but it swaps the gin for sparkling wine – hence the name ‘mistaken’.
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It’s weaker than a traditional negroni and was invented at the trendy Bar Basso in Milan in 1973 as a means of offering women a ‘more platable’ beverage. Although termed a mistake, the drink was absolutely invented on purpose and has now become a staple in Milan.
Is Negroni and Sbagliato the Same?
No, absolutely not. Although the two drinks share two of their three ingredients, any serious hospitality worker will tell you that the drinks are not the same at all.
Think of the sbagliato as the younger, lighter sibling of the heavyweight negroni. Where the latter comes in at around 25-30% alcohol, the former taps out at around 15%.
“The sbagliato is a really good alternative if you want a negroni, but you also want to get something done afterwards,” drinks writer Henry Jefferys has said about the cocktail.
The drink doesn’t hit with the same punch as a negroni and comes with a touch of sparkle, unlike the almost syrupy older drink. Typically, the sbagliato is served ‘up’, in a glass with a stem, whereas the negroni is typically served in a heavier, rocks glass.
Who Said Negroni Sbagliato with Prosecco?
It was the video that launched a million orders – Emma D’arcy of House of the Dragon fame was asked by her co-star Olivia Cooke what their drink of choice is back in October of last year for a promo video for the show. Her response?
“A negroni… sbagliato, with prosecco in it”.
@hbomax I’ll take one of each. #houseofthedragon ♬ a negroni sbagliato w prosecco l hbo max – hbomax
It rapidly became one of those infinite mysteries of the internet as it rapidly blew up, rocketing Google search trends for the drink that is not well known outside of Milan. Bartenders around the world brushed up on their skills as hoards of viewers wanted to give D’arcy’s cocktail of choice a go.
D’arcy, who is non-binary, has since said that they were embarrassed about becoming a meme since they were only trying to make Cooke laugh after spending six hours in interviews.
They have since said that they find the whole thing to be “a perfect cocktail of surprising, bemusing, and intensely flattering.”
“All of my body wants to give a flippant answer in terms of a great drink finally getting the recognition that it deserves. Very surreal and very lovely.”
The video has since had 33 million views.
Negroni Sbagliato Recipes
The negroni has remained unchanged as a drink for over a hundred years since it was first, allegedly, created by Count Camillo Negroni in Florence in 1919 or General Pascal Olivier de Negroni in Senegal, depending on which story you choose to believe.
Being comprised of three ingredients – a London Dry gin, Campari, and vermouth, which is usually Antico Rosso – it doesn’t leave much room for experimentation.
When making a negroni sbagliato, your best bet is to follow the traditional negroni recipe, just skipping out on the gin:
Add 45ml of Campari and 45ml of sweet vermouth to a large glass with ice. Stir thoroughly and pour into a tall glass, adding fresh ice. Top with prosecco, or a sparkling wine of your choice, and then garnish with a twist of orange skin.
E voilà, you have one negroni spagliato. Saluti!