In the case of the sbagliato, sometimes being “wrong” can be oh so right

Darling, you simply must have a Negroni Sbagliato,” someone is sure to say to you sometime soon (if they haven’t already). Italian cocktails are all the rage: the Aperol Spritz, the Campari Spritz, and the Negroni, are everywhere, much to the delight of Gruppo Campari, the liquor giant that owns both Aperol and Campari. And now you can add one more to that expanding list: the Negroni Sbagliato.

The story goes that in 1972, bartender Mirko Stocchetto mistakenly mixed up a bottle of gin with a bottle of prosecco while making a Negroni at the historic Bar Basso in Milan. The resulting “mistake” or “sbagliato” in Italian, became that bar’s signature drink.

What a great story. Except for a few things. One) sbagliato doesn’t mean mistake, it simply means “wrong,” which has a whole different connotation. Two) It is nearly impossible to mix up a bottle of gin with a bottle of prosecco. There is no gin bottle anywhere that looks anything like the classic thickened wine bottle used for sparkling prosecco (it is under pressure after all). Furthermore, you hold the two bottles differently (wine bottles by the body, liquor bottles by the neck) so no professional bartender could, or would, ever make that mistake. And three) a Negroni without gin, but made with sparkling wine is actually a version of the classic Americano cocktail, which begat the Negroni itself, not the other way around.

A little history. The Americano was a cocktail designed by Gaspare Campari, the creator of Campari itself. Essentially it was a mix of Italian sweet vermouth, Campari, and soda water. Invented in the 1860’s at Gaspare’s bar in Milan, the Americano is credited with Campari’s early success. But the Americano was just another version of the earlier Milano-Torino cocktail which featured soda water, Campari and Punt e Mes. A Turin aperitif, Punt e Mes, is made by combining Italian sweet vermouth and bitters and was created by the progenitor of sweet vermouth itself, Antonio Carpano. Carpano, is perhaps best known these days as the company that also produces Carpano Antica, the very vanguard of modern premium vermouth.

 In 1919, a bartender in Florence was instructed to substitute gin for the soda water in a customer’s Americano cocktail, the result was named after that customer; the Negroni (some say he was a count). Ironically 1919 was also about the same time another drink rose to prominence in the former territories of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. This drink took to combining soda water (and sometimes sparkling wine) to Italian aperitifs and calling them by the German name for sparkling: spritzen. The spritz was born. A hundred years later it is all the rage.

The sbagliato is not a mistake, it is the same drink that helped launch Campari, birthed the Negroni, and then burnished the Aperol Spritz. Lest anyone forget, the Americano is also the very first drink James Bond ever orders in the very first Bond book, Casino Royale, published way back in 1953.

So, Emma D’Arcy and Olivia Cooke (stars of HBO’s House of Dragons) can have their viral Tik Tok moment talking about their favorite “sbagliato” cocktail. But let us also recognize that sbagliato means “wrong” and the irony of that cannot be easily overlooked.

Here are the four classics in order. This time out, not localized for your consumption, because they are all Italian, and we wouldn’t want to make any mistakes.

Americano Cocktail

1 ounce Campari

1 ounce Carpano Antica sweet vermouth

1 ounce soda water

1 lemon zest

Combine first two ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into an ice filled glass, top with soda water and stir again. Garnish with the lemon zest.

Note: never shake drinks with soda water or sparkling wine. Add them afterwards, that way you don’t risk a fizzy explosion and you don’t lose the spritz of the carbonation.


1 ounce Campari

1 ounce Carpano Antica sweet vermouth

1 ounce dry gin

1 orange zest

Combine all three ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain over a large format ice cube in a double old fashioned glass. Garnish with the orange zest

Note: Aperol can often easily be substituted 1:1 for Campari in many cocktails, including this one, rendering the drink slightly more sweet and slightly less bitter.

Aperol Spritz

1 ounce Aperol

1 ounce soda water

1 ounce prosecco

1 orange zest

Combine all three liquid ingredients in a wine glass filled with ice. Stir and then garnish with the orange zest.

Note: Conversely, Campari can also be substituted for Aperol, when a more bitter, bracing flavor is desired. Both spritz versions are extremely popular in Italy at the moment.

Negroni Sbagliato (or Americano Spritz)

¾ ounce Campari

¾ ounce Carpano Antica sweet vermouth

¾ ounce prosecco

1 orange zest

Combine first two ingredients in a mixing glass with ice, stir and strain into an ice filled serving glass. Top with prosecco and stir again. Garnish with the orange zest.

Note: This drink can also be made by halving the quantities of the Campari and sweet vermouth, omitting the ice, quadrupling the prosecco and serving it in a champagne flute. Either way it is delicious.