The first time I ordered a Negroni Sbagliato at a hotel bar in Rome, the bartender looked at me quizzically. I wasn't sure if my pronunciation was that bad or if, as people often tell me, I was speaking too softly. So I repeated myself and added, "With prosecco instead of gin?" He shook his head and said, "But, my dear, that's wrong."
I soon realized that this was a joke he had told many times before: In Italian, "sbagliato" (pronounced spah-li’AH-toh) means "wrong," "messed-up," or "mistaken." The twist on the classic cocktail is said to have originated when a rushed bartender making a Negroni accidentally picked up a bottle of prosecco instead of gin. A fortunate mistake, if you ask anyone who's tried it, as the result has endured in its native Italy for decades and found its place in bars and homes around the world.
A classic Negroni is equal parts gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth, but feel free to add a bit more prosecco to the mix than you would gin, owing to its lower alcohol content (or keep it light for an aperitivo). I've never seen a bartender in Italy measure a Negroni, so you'll be in good company. The prosecco softens the Campari’s signature edge ever so slightly for a wonderful balance of bitterness, sweetness, and fizz. Don’t forget the orange wheel or twist—the fresh zippiness brightens and enlivens the whole glass.
There’s no need to reach for a pricey bottle of prosecco when making a Negroni Sbagliato, since the sparkling wine’s more subtle notes will certainly be overpowered by the sharp citrusy flavor of the Campari and complex spiciness of the vermouth. At the same time, it’s a wise move not to grab the least-expensive bottle you can find, as there will still be plenty left over for sipping chilled on its own after you make the cocktail. If you’re looking to add a higher-end or small-batch element to your drink, try Cappelletti—a delicious rhubarb-forward amaro from Italy—in place of Campari.
This drink is easy to make in a large batch for a crowd, with no need for elaborate shaking or muddling. Simply pour over ice, top with prosecco, garnish, and enjoy. —Julie Myers
Test Kitchen Notes
WHO: Julie Myers is a past member of the Food52 team with a Masters in Food earned in Italy.
WHAT: A simple, subtler cousin of the classic Negroni.
HOW: Pour two of our favorite types of alcohol into a glass with ice. Stir, top with bubbly, and drink.
WHY WE LOVE IT: This version of the bitter and harshly sweet Negroni replaces gin with prosecco for a lighter, sparkling pre-dinner drink. When we close our eyes and take a sip, it almost feels like we're on the shore of Cinque Terre—almost. —The Editors
- Prep time 5 minutes
- Makes 1 cocktail
prosecco, or more to taste
orange peel or wheel, to garnish
- Pour the Campari and sweet vermouth into an ice-filled glass, and stir.
- Top with prosecco, garnish with orange peel, and serve.