The Negroni Sbagliato is perfect for today, July 18, as it just so happens to be the anniversary of the Battle of the Allia in 390 BC. That was the battle that led to the Sacking of Rome, so we’ve got it all: history, plundering, burning things down, and Italy. Fertile ground, indeed, for Drink of the Day,
To refresh your memory, back in the Iron Age the Gallic tribes were running around Europe and the Senomes, one of such tribes, had already settled on the coast in Northern Italy around what is now Rimini. Meanwhile, over in Clusium (a town in what’s now Tuscany) the king of the town entrusted the guardianship of his young son to Aruns before he died. Unfortunately for Aruns, the young son became a young man and seduced Aruns’ wife. Aruns was not in the best mood after this and decided to console himself by going over to sell wine, olives and figs to the Senomes. The Senomes, largely an unwashed, matted hair sort of Celtic tribe had never seen such things and asked where they were from. And of course Aruns explained that they were all from a large and fertile land held by just a few people who were lousy fighters. The Senomes’ ears perked up with that.
The Senomes decided to saunter down to Clusium for a look around. As one might imagine the local residents felt a bit threatened and asked Rome for help, so Rome sent some ambassadors. The Senomes would accept a peace if the Clusians would give them some land, but this ended up with a quarrel, ambassadors engaging in the fight, and a Senome chieftain being killed. This was a violation of the law of nations at that time.
This irritated the Senomes so they sent their own ambassadors to Rome to demand the miscreant Roman ambassadors be handed over to them. That didn’t work, so the enraged Gauls decided to march on Rome.
This led to our subject matter battle which was fought at the confluence of the Tiber and Allia rivers, about 10 miles north of Rome itself. The Romans were routed and most survivors fled to another nearby town without sending a messenger to let Rome know. The Senomes were dumfounded by how easy this all was, so they wandered over to Rome and arrived before sunset. There they were so surprised to find the city gates open and the walls unguarded that they decided to camp nearby, probably have a drink, and wait until the next day to make trouble. The Romans, thinking the few battle survivors that had come back to Rome were all they had left for defense were in a panic and obviously needed a drink.
The next day the Senomes entered Rome and the plundering, burning and other festivities ensued. You all know how that went.
So what does this mean for Drink of the Day? Italy, plundering, mass hysteria? Pretty easy, really: today we’re getting into the Negroni Sbagliato.
Why, you ask? Well, it uses Italian ingredients, it was conceived through error much like Rome’s course of events and “sbagliato” means “wrong” or “mistaken” when translated into English. And while none of the ingredients are Roman – they’re all from further north in Italy – it’s all south of the Alps and pretty much under the control of Rome before it was sacked. Even if the ingredients weren’t yet invented.
Of course you all know and are fond of the basic Negroni: gin, sweet vermouth and Campari. But if you’re a busy bartender in Milan named Mirko Stocchetti belting out drinks one night sometime in the late 1980s and somehow reach for the spumante bottle rather than the gin you might accidentally use it. This seems to have happened, but it was a fortuitous accident. Even if it does make a low ABV cocktail. (Some drunkards in training seem to gravitate toward those.) By the way, another suggestion for a low ABV cocktail we would make is the Adonis cocktail.
Now speaking of spumante, first note that it means nothing more than sparkling wine in the lexicon of Italian wines. Then note that it comes in a few styles. You don’t want the sweet Asti Spumante. No indeed, you want a dry spumante, a Franciacorta that comes from Lombardy and is made with the same grapes and method as Champagne: pinot noir and chardonnay. So feel free to substitute the bottle of champagne or other dry sparkling wine you have on the counter.
- 1 oz Sweet Vermouth
- 1 oz Campari
- 2 oz Spumante
- You have a choice here: either servein a large goblet over a single, large ice cube or stir the vermouth and Campari with ice to chill, pour into glass, and top with spumante.
- Once you mix it you can contemplate how nice it would have been to have one if you knew you were about to be decimated by invading tribes.