Sin-free Negroni Sbagliato

Non-alcoholic cocktails need no longer be plain or laden with sugar. A new generation of aromatics and botanicals is taking “dry days” up a notch, says Alice Lascelles

April 29 2020


A column about non-alcoholic cocktails for Boisdale Life? A publication I’ve always associated with red-blooded, whisky-fuelled hedonism? Well, times, as you’re no doubt grimly aware, are a-changing. Around one-fifth of the UK population profess to be teetotal. And even those of us who enjoy a dram or two are coming round to the idea that the odd bout of temperance isn’t such a bad thing.

It was once assumed that anyone who didn’t drink must have the taste of an eight-year-old. Non-alcoholic options were confined to sweet fizzy drinks, cordials, and juices. Bad for teeth, worse for morale. There are only so many pints of lime and soda a grown-up can drink.

But in the last few years the outlook has improved and the market is full of drinks for the adult palate. The choice of beers is particularly good: My favourites include Big Drop, Lucky Saint, Clausthaler Dry Hopped Lager, and anything from Athletic Brewing in the US.

For cocktails, the key is bitterness. A little bite gives a drink the structure and complexity often missing in zero-ABV recipes. Products that deliver really well are Aecorn Bitter – a Campari-like aperitif flavoured with grapefruit, orange, and bay – and Everleaf, a botanical cordial with vetiver, orange blossom, and gentian, for drinking with tonic or soda.

For this issue’s cocktail I’m using Aecorn Bitter – and the vermouth-like Aecorn Aromatic – to create a twist on one of my favourite aperitivos, the bitter-sweet Negroni Sbagliato. Literally a “bungled Negroni”, it was invented at Bar Basso in Milan, when a bartender mixed a Negroni with prosecco instead of gin. It’s a drink born of a cock-up, so why not substitute a bit more? In place of the prosecco, I’ve used sparkling cold-pressed Jasmine tea from Saicho, who also make sparkling Darjeeling and Hojicha teas with all the provenance of fine wine.

You might also like to mix 50ml of Everleaf with 100ml Saicho Darjeeling. Serve over ice, with a slice.

For a Negroni Sbagliato proper, just mix 25ml Campari and 25ml Rosso Vermouth, over ice, top with 100ml prosecco, stir, and garnish with a slice of citrus.


25ml Aecorn Bitter
25ml Aecorn Aromatic
100ml chilled Saicho Sparkling Jasmine Tea
slice of orange or pink grapefruit to garnish

Mix and serve in a large wine or rocks glass, over lots of ice.

Alice Lascelles is a contributing editor to the Financial Times, and writes ‘The Goblet’ for How to Spend It magazine