“A negroni…sbagliato…with prosecco in it.” With seven simple (and smoothly crooned) words, nonbinary House of the Dragon star Emma D’Arcy didn’t break the internet, but ensnared a significant and mostly gay portion of it. A clip of D’arcy and their onscreen nemesis Olivia Cooke discussing their favorite drinks went viral on TikTok and has heralded a new contender in the constant battle for drink of the moment: a negroni sbagliato.
In less than two weeks, the video has gone from a niche lesbian joke to a mainstream trend, spawning a platform-crossing wave of queer horniness, recipes, and dozens of memes worrying about unprepared bartenders. But several bartenders tell Rolling Stone they’re not concerned about the drink’s newfound fame—handling the masses (and their thirst) is in the job description.
For all of the craze surrounding the pronunciation of the negroni sbagliato, the origin of its new queer status is an unassuming eight-second promotional clip. On October 1st, HBO Max’s TikTok posted a snippet of a featurette with D’Arcy and Cooke, who play rival princess and queen Rhaenyra Targaryen and Alicent Hightower in Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon.
But it wasn’t just fans of the show who pounced on the clip: it was lesbian TikTok. When the audio had less than 5,000 videos using it, a TikTok marker for “up and coming but nowhere near mainstream,” dozens of queer users posted videos, noting its earworm quality and universally agreeing upon the sex appeal of D’Arcy’s voice. By the time it hit its ever-growing, viral status: a new danger emerged. Could this fun trend on queer TikTok mean hell for real-life bartenders?
“Pour some prosecco out for the bartenders having to make negroni sbagliatos for 1000 bisexuals this week,” one tweet read.
Ryan Power, a 24-year-old bartender who works at New York bars Gingers and the Duplex, says that this past weekend was the first time they heard the drink being ordered at the bar. The bartender, who uses they/them pronouns and is part of the queer community, says the sound has become a staple on their “For you” page and likens its success (and the dozens of drinks they and their coworkers have already made) to other trendy drinks like the espresso martini and the Dirty Shirley.
“I’ve been bartending for a few years now and I had never made [a Dirty Shirley] before this summer. And I want to say I made at least 300. It was to the point that we couldn’t keep grenadine in stock,” Power says. “Now, everybody knows the negroni sbagliato.”
According to Power, it’s unlikely that bartenders across the country will rue the day the drink went viral. The drink has a relatively easy recipe, so unless you’re at a dive bar that specializes in vodka tonics or jack and gingers, any cocktail bar will be able to make you the drink.
“It’s not an espresso martini, or a mojito, or a Miami Vice where it’s gonna go down in history as the drink you don’t want to order at a bar,” Power says. “It’s cute and honestly, I don’t think anybody should be apologizing for ordering a drink they want. If you’re ordering a Miami Vice, you should always apologize. But for something so simple, and only three ingredients, it’s not really something to be concerned about.”
The hallmark of the sbagliato is its playful undercut of the bitter and sophisticated negroni, which is usually made with equal parts gin, vermouth, and Campari. In Italian, the phrase “sbagliato” roughly translates to “broken” or “mistake,” a cheeky wink to an urban legend behind the drink’s origins. According to bar expert and podcaster Erick Castro, Milan establishment Bar Bosso was credited for the drink’s creation after a bartender was said to have mistakenly added Prosecco instead of gin to a patron’s drink. True or not, Castro says the story, and the drink’s sexy name, hooks people—an interest he says only bartenders with gatekeeping mentalities would discourage.
“I know there’s some bartenders out there who will get annoyed, but they’re annoyed when the public doesn’t drink good drinks, and they also get annoyed when a drink becomes trendy,” says Castro. “I think the drink deserves its moment. It’s a perfect cocktail.”
Molly, a queer bartender who works at a C’mon Everybody, a queer event space in Brooklyn, says they’ve made at least a dozen of the drink and are only expecting a larger interest in coming weeks. The bartender, who uses they/them pronouns, adds that the drink has also become a topic of interest in their bartender circle, with one friend noting their bar ran out of Prosecco and had to order more.
“I think the next lesbian event, we’ll definitely sell out of Prosecco,” Molly tells Rolling Stone. “We’re already gonna have to order a lot more Campari.”
While the negroni sbagliato emerging as winter’s must-have drink was unexpected, Molly isn’t surprised the audio did so well on queer TikTok — and credits its popularity to the sexiness of a specific skill set.
“Queer people love things that are either a little horny or a little ridiculous and camp,” says Molly. “It’s more of a craft cocktail. It’s something that’s lesser-known. So I think people found it sexy that [D’Arcy] knew this less popular variation on the drink. In queer masculine spaces, knowing craft things or having a skill or knowledge that you are really passionate about is seen as an attractive trait.”
If you’re worried about pissing off your future bartender, Castro does want people to know that the viral clip — sexy as it may be — isn’t the preferred way to order the cocktail. While D’Arcy specifies a sbagliato with prosecco, Castro says leaving off the qualifier will go a long way in keeping your bartender happy.
“A lot of bartenders like to be stuffy about this sort of thing, but I think it’s more the prosecco part of the order that bothers them,” Castro says. “ It’s already gonna come with prosecco so just say sbagliato and you’ll be in good shape.”
Power adds that a majority of the people who ordered the sbagliato identified as queer and asked the bartender if they were aware of the viral sound. Power, who describes themselves as chronically online, says that the sbagliato trend also speaks to a larger desire in the queer and sapphic community to find new ways to signal queerness– something they find extremely important as the number of gay bars around the country continues to shrink or face outside threats.
“I have noticed that there’s a lot of younger lesbians or queer women or anybody who aligns with the sapphic spectrum, who are always looking for ways to signal to each other that they’re queer,” Power says. “It’s similar to being like, ‘Oh, do you listen to girl in red or are you wearing a carabiner?”
All of the bartenders who spoke to Rolling Stone pointed out a long and treasured history of popular drinks coinciding with larger cultural trends. Castro notes that Americans in particular have often avoided bitter drinks, while Molly says nostalgia has seen a resurgence of classic cocktails like the appletini and cosmo. While it’s unclear what staying power the sbagliato will have among the newer generation of drinkers, Power says bartenders who love their craft, especially queer ones, won’t begrudge anyone for trying out the viral drink.
“For me personally, as a queer bartender, my job is to hold space for the queer community and provide people with a service that allows them to hang out and spend time together. So I don’t really mind making it,” Power says. “For the most part, it’s younger, queer women who are trying to suss out what they like and explore, which is one of the coolest parts of queer spaces. So it’s sweet that people are sorry that I have to make a million of these and I appreciate the intent behind it. But it’s my job.”