How to make a Sbagliato: The "Mistaken Negroni"

How to make a Sbagliato: The "Mistaken Negroni"

Our doyen of drinks Eric Twardzik considers the accidental Negroni alternative.

Illustration by John Molesworth.

Leave it to the Italians to find perfection in a mistake. 

As the oft-repeated story goes, a waiter at Milan’s Bar Basso accidentally served a Negroni with prosecco in place of gin, to his client’s satisfaction. From this snafu, the Negroni Sbagliato—or “mistaken Negroni”— was born.

I’m always a bit amazed that it was an accident at all. It seems perfectly natural to substitute heavy, juniper-laced gin with sweet, bubbly wine. It’s also just one step removed from the Negroni’s granddaddy, the Americano, which was favoured by stateside tourists because it tamed bitter Campari and sweet vermouth with soda water (this, I should add, is also a fine mid-summer day drink).

Most recipes prescribe an equal-parts ratio, in keeping with the Negroni formula and that original mistaken order. But I find that light, fizzy prosecco needs reinforcements to bat against a bitter liqueur and an aromatized wine and bump its respective portion to three parts. However, I think it’s best served like a standard Negroni, in a chilled rocks glass over a few sizable cubes (unlike Bar Basso, where the drink now comes in a vase-sized goblet with a footlong stem). The key is to top it off with prosecco slowly, to preserve the carbonation. 

Aside from prosecco’s refreshing aspect, it turns the Sbagliato into a true session cocktail by replacing the Negroni’s highest-proof player. You can easily put away two or three before dinner, preferably in a sunlit piazza, though a back porch or a favourite living room chair make perfectly acceptable substitutes.   

Negroni Sbagliato

30 ml Campari 

30ml sweet vermouth

90ml prosecco

Orange peel, for garnish

Add Campari and sweet vermouth to a chilled rocks glass with ice. Top slowly with prosecco. Garnish with an orange peel and serve.