“Sbagliato means ‘mistaken’ or ‘broken’ Negroni,” says Joe Campanale, owner of Brooklyn restaurants Fausto, LaLou and Bar Vinazo. The drink’s name comes from its alleged origin story: At Milan’s Bar Basso, a guest ordered a Negroni, and the bartender was so busy that he accidentally grabbed a bottle of prosecco instead of gin, resulting in a lower-proof, sparkling version of the classic. Campanale’s take on the drink, meanwhile, “is almost a ‘broken’ Sbagliato, in a way.”
While his take is similar to the original (equal parts Campari and sweet vermouth, topped up with prosecco), it dives a little deeper: It includes two types of red bitters—neither of which is Campari—and two types of bubbles, veering the drink into spritz territory. The end result is a complex but still-familiar variation that won Punch’s Ultimate Sbagliato taste-off.
Campanale says he’s always loved the Sbagliato, and put it on his first cocktail list at Italian restaurant dell’anima back in 2008 or 2009—“I thought, This is such a cool, slightly geeky take on the Negroni,” he says—long before the drink became viral on social media last October. “I honestly could not have foreseen the Sbagliato becoming such a popular drink.”
While he’s long been a fan of the traditional Negroni, he notes the strength of the gin-based drink. Swapping out the base spirit for sparkling wine in the Sbagliato makes it a more food-friendly aperitivo, “a lighter, fresher way to start a meal,” he says.
When he opened Fausto in 2017 in Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood, Campanale sought to lighten the drink further and give it a bit of local flavor. He dropped the Campari, and split the red bitter portion between the Red Aperitivo from Brooklyn’s Forthave Spirits—“I love supporting local producers”—and Aperitivo Cappelletti, a wine-based spirit from Italy, which “gives a nice roundness” to the drink. “Both of these spirits are made with natural coloring, where Campari is made with artificial coloring,” he adds. (Campanale uses a similar split-aperitivo approach in his Doppio Spritz.)
In the cocktail’s current iteration, the sweet vermouth portion is unchanged from the dell’anima recipe: a half-ounce of Dolin. Though he likes the product, he also appreciates that the French brand subverts traditional associations that red vermouth is Italian and white vermouth is French.
For the sparkling component, Campanale adds an ounce of sparkling water to the expected prosecco, “kind of making it more in the mode of a Spritz Sbagliato,” he says, and yielding a lower-proof, refreshing aperitivo. To cut down on sweetness, he also recommends using any “good organic, very dry prosecco” as the topper.
Regarding the presentation, Campanale sticks with a wine glass, the traditional Sbagliato vessel, which is also a harmonious nod to the wine-based components in the drink, prosecco, sweet vermouth and Cappelletti. The finishing touch is an orange slice. While “there’s nothing wrong with a peel,” which accents citrusy flavors found in red bitters, he says, “my preference is always for edible garnishes.” A red bitter–soaked orange slice is “so delicious… I’ll eat that after I finish the drink.”