The negroni reigns supreme as the aperitif cocktail of choice for discerning Australian drinkers, especially in Melbourne where Italian food and drink culture forms the bedrock of the city’s hospitality scene. The brilliantly simple cocktail of gin, Campari and sweet vermouth is easy to make, hard to screw up and is one of those classic combinations, like ham, cheese and tomato, that’s far more than the sum of its parts. But what if you do screw it up?
If you’ve caught a whiff of this month’s social media mega-trend, you will have heard or seen something about the negroni sbagliato, courtesy of a now-viral interview between two of the stars of HBO’s hit show “House of the Dragon”. The clip, which has accrued more than 30 million views on TikTok, features Emma D’arcy (Rhaenys Targaryen) telling co-star Olivia Cooke (Alicent Hightower) in their alluring British accent that their drink of choice is a “negroni sbagliato… with prosecco”. Cooke responds, “Oh, stunning!” The drink sounds good, too.
What exactly is this “stunning” beverage? In Italian, ‘sbagliato’ translates to ‘mistaken’ or ‘wrong’. According to Difford’s Guide, the negroni sbagliato was created in the 1980s by Italian bartender Mirko Stoccetti at his bar Basso in Milan. While making a negroni, Stoccetti mistakenly picked up a bottle of prosecco instead of gin, leading to a negroni-spritz hybrid that was bittersweet and refreshing, but richer and more herbal than its Aperol counterpart.
In the US, the video led to an immediate spike in online sales of both Campari and prosecco, as viewers flocked to try the drink endorsed by a dragon-riding fantasy royal. Here in Australia, a very unscientific social media survey of cocktail bartenders suggests that while a smattering of orders have come across the bar, most Aussies are less keen to jump on the bandwagon, preferring instead to stick to their usual spritzes and standard negronis.
But some venues are leaning in nonetheless, and with a great response from their guests. William Hilder, General Manager of Melbourne-based Alimentari Group’s portfolio of Italian-inspired cafes and restaurants, decided to pop the Sbagliato on his cocktail list to make good on the trend. Hilder likes the drink, especially as we come into spring, because, he says, “It’s nice to have a less boozy option for a negroni. People also like the fun of trying something that’s in the media at the moment.”
Australian prosecco has experienced a boom over the last decade, so we’ve got plenty of excellent local options to mistakenly throw in our cocktails. Hilder uses Dal Zotto prosecco from King Valley in his sbagliatos. “The citrus notes cut through the richness of the Campari and vermouth,” he says. “It’s also nice to use local, and Dal Zotto is the ‘original’ Australian prosecco.”
If you’d like to give it a go yourself, making a negroni sbagliato is as easy as burning your enemies to a crisp with dragonfire:
30ml Campari or other bitter orange aperitif (there are several excellent Australian ones on the market these days)
30ml red vermouth (keep your vermouth in the fridge once it’s opened to keep it fresh)
60ml chilled prosecco
Pour all ingredients to a chilled rocks glass or wine glass.
Top with as much ice as you can fit in the glass, and garnish with a slice of fresh orange (or a couple of green Sicillian olives if you’re feeling peckish).
Best enjoyed while sitting in the springtime sun, or from your Iron Throne while your subjects cower before your might.