Negroni Sbagliato: a cocktail of online communities & trends
- Food and Drink
The Negroni Sbagliato serves as a perfect microcosm not only of how utterly the anglosphere can butcher Italian, but also as an example of a trend accumulating layers of meaning and resonance as it passes through online spaces.
First thing’ first: what is a Negroni Sbagliato? In short, it’s a drink of Campari, Vermouth and (the key point of difference with a ‘classic’ Negroni), sparkling wine in place of gin.
So what propelled this twist on a cocktail staple into the conversations of audiences all around the globe?
Interest in the topic barely registered prior to October 7, before suddenly exploding. And it all started with a single viral clip, drawn from a ‘Get to Know Me’ behind the scenes clip for HBO’s House of the Dragon.
The clip itself has been re-edited and reuploaded numerous times, but all revolve around actor Emma D’Arcy’s response to co-star Olivia Cooke, when asked for their drink of choice.
Using Pulsar TRAC, and its capacity for mapping conversations as they play out across Twitter, TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, Twitch, Pinterest, YouTube and numerous other social platforms (as well as News and Google Search), we can break down this accelerated evolution in meaning and association as it happened.
In little to no time, the cocktail, and the inimitable way the actor phrased it, had rapidly spread from House of the Dragon deep divers into the LGBTQ+ community. Appreciation and thirst tweets quickly mutated into a kind of knowing insider humor, as individuals started playfully using the phrase as a shorthand and identifier.
It also quickly intersected with existing strands of internet humor, to create memes and points of reference almost indecipherable to outsiders.
And it wasn’t just Twitter, for all that the platform acted as a repository for interest. The phrase has also accumulated 43.6 million views on TikTok, with the vocal track lifted and co-opted as the platform’s latest instance of viral humor.
This has since translated into an interest in the cocktail itself. Not only what it is, and who’s saying it, but also what it tastes like, and how to make it. This is reflected in posts, videos and live streams detailing the step-by-step process.
So who’s responsible for propelling this conversation from obscure behind the scenes snippet into viral sensation?
The LGBTQ+ community can take all the credit for this. A high degree of intersectionality between Pop Culture Fans and these communities, epitomized by Lesbian Cinephiles, meant that the idea was quickly communicated beyond fantasy fans into an active, highly-connected audience.
From there it leapt into another community with common interests: US Coastal Foodies. This audience segment, which devours food content produced by largely NYC-based media, was a little late to the party, and are more concerned with the flavor profile and process behind the Negroni Sbagliato itself.
Using Pulsar’s Communities to feature to identify how each of the audiences were talking about the topic, we can see the two-day delay between the Negroni Sbagliato conversation taking off amongst Pop Culture-focused and Gay communities, and its adoption amongst Coastal Foodies.
In addition to communities of interest, the conversation also mutated as the topic moved across platforms. In fact, the first mention of any note appears to have taken place on a much earlier video, by Elle, in which a commenter declares themsleves to have ‘tried a Negroni Sbagliato for the first time thanks to this video’.
It was the HBO video of a month later, however, that really set the ball rolling. And even if the first mention on Twitter didn’t generate much in the way of engagement:
… the LGBTQ+ community soon ensured that the meme was communicated far beyond Twitter itself.
That this then transmuted into more mainstream culture can be detected not only by an uptick in Google Search interest (up 5000% since the start of the month), and by citations in widely read publications, but also in the conversations taking place across Subreddits.
Because Reddit appeared to largely bypass this surge in LGBTQ+ humor and reference, with most mentions occurring initially in the subreddit centered on House of the Dragon itself before rebounding back into all kinds of subreddits, from the obvious (r/cocktails), to the more obscure, like r/bucaresti, which outlines the best place in Bucharest to score a negroni sbagliato.
Pinterest too has removed references to the drink from their association with Emma D’Arcy, and simply reflects the desire of users to understand and recreate a drink that’s suddenly (and inexplicably in the perspective of many users) gone viral.
And lastly, in the surest sign yet that the trend has passed into mainstream consciousness, the meme has also been utilized by brands, from Campari themselves:
… all the way to organizational apps.
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The Negroni Sbagliato has, in 2 weeks, undergone shifts in public perception that might previously have taken years. It's a case study in the power of communities and platforms to re-contextualise items, trends and ideas at accelerated speed.