A person I once knew, who was not a sentient inspirational poster, was fond of saying that in the end, people don't regret things they've done, only the things they didn't do. Bless his optimistic heart, I think he even believed it. Wouldn't it be nice to live in that world, to not ever regret things you've said or done? Who hasn't wished for a do-over on occasion?
We are discouraged from reconciling our mistakes by a culture that expects effortless perfection and smears a changed mind as a "flip-flop." Dwelling too long on wrong decisions or accidental disasters isn't healthy, but neither is brushing them off with selective amnesia. Perfectionists might recognize in themselves a fear of others seeing that they are fallible, while standard-bearers of positivity work overtime under the tyranny of the silver lining to avoid a turn into the swamp of sadness. But our mistakes are often more instructive than our triumphs. We downplay them at the risk of our own growth.
After all, another word for mistake can be discovery. Or so says the sbagliato, a cocktail that wears its origin as a mistake as a badge of honor. It came into being when, according to the stories, a bartender reached for the wrong bottle while mixing a Negroni, pouring sparkling wine instead of gin into the glass of vermouth and Campari. No "I meant to do that" posturing here: The very name of this drink embraces its origin as a screw-up, an oops grand enough to enshrine it forever.
So let's drink to a practice of admitting our mistakes to ourselves and to others. Not every mistake ends in delight, and minor regrets don't necessarily demand a prolonged ritual of dramatic repentance. But every time we pause to acknowledge an active choice or an instinctive response that results in even a small amount of regret, we lower the risk of repeating that mistake in the future.
Whether or not you're already a Negroni fan, you'll find the sbagliato to be its softer, friendlier cousin thanks to the dry sparkling wine standing in for the gin. It's still a drink that's all alcohol, no mixer, but it does pack less of an alcoholic punch without the hard liquor, making it a solid choice for pre-dinner drinks, weeknight gatherings or any other time you wish to keep the risk for feeling like last night was a terrible mistake low. Bittersweet and a bit bubbly, the sbagliato is also a perfect match for those long watch parties where rich dips and heavy bar food are served.
This is a straightforward, simple drink. Any basic prosecco or sparkling wine works fine, but I suggest treating yourself to a high-quality Italian vermouth, because you'll actually be able to taste it in this drink. My go-to is a grand dame of Turin vermouths, Antica Formula Carpano, made from the same formula since 1786; Punt e Mes is delicious, as well. (The upside of a good vermouth is that it can stand on its own as an apéritif. Try it with tonic or in a spritz, too.) Store open vermouth in the refrigerator, where it should last for about a month.
Serving size: one beverage
- 1 oz. Campari
- 1 oz. Italian vermouth
- Prosecco or other dry sparkling wine
- Orange wheel or peel
You don't need any specialty equipment to mix or serve a simple cocktail. Improvise with what you have. But here's what I keep at hand:
- Rocks glass
- Jigger or measuring device (a standard shot glass holds 1.5 oz, if you're eyeballing it)
- Cocktail mixer glass
- Bar spoon
- Champagne bottle stopper (I swear by this Winco model; it keeps opened bottles fresh for days)
Add ice to your mixer glass, and stir together the Campari and vermouth. Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice, then gently stir in the prosecco. Add more prosecco to taste, if needed. Garnish with an orange wheel or peel.
In her book "Apéritif," Rebekah Peppler suggests using a sparkling rosé instead of standard bubbles. You can also cut down on the alcohol content by making an Americano, which swaps in soda water for the sparkling wine.
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