Photo by Allan Francis on Unsplash

The Negroni Sbagliato 

My negroni sbagliato is a civilized creature of the early evening, when it’s too early for a proper negroni and too late in the day for a spritz, the moment when the Zoom window blinks out and the curtain comes down. 

The drink arrives in a stemless, weighted white wine glass, already damp with condensation. The cocktail is a deep ruby red, the color of my expensive-enough silk-blend sweater, which is antithetical to my style but “pops” on camera. It is cold and bracingly bitter, sharp with bubbles and tart and sweet. The ice glitters under early lamplight. 

It smells like a grapefruit taking a nap in a sunny herb garden and reminds me of Italy, where my husband first brought me this sophisticated drink on the piazza San Marco, and we sat on the steps and watched our incomprehensibly privileged children watching the pigeons take sudden flight, black shadows against the palest sky at the close of day. 

I jerk awake every morning at the furthest point from the negroni, when the existential battle at the heart of every nonprofit enterprise resumes. All day, on innumerable Zoom calls, exhausted women from around the world remind me that our organizations cannot survive if we are not willing to give our lives in the service of their missions. Resigned to my fate, I return to battle. 

In my favorite scene in “The Godfather,’ Michael Corleone gently demotes Tom Hagen, who is a fine attorney but not built for the chaos of a full-blown gang war. His loving phrase always stuck with me: You’re not a wartime consigliere. In rare off-camera moments, I repeat the phrase to myself. I need someone to tell me that I don’t have to go down in a glorious blaze of crossfire just because I believe in something with all my heart. 

My husband prepares a negroni sbagliato for me every single evening, placing it right at my elbow. I know by the rigidity of his body and the evenness of his tone that he hates this, hates being conscripted into the ornate pageantry I have constructed around what is, in reality, the most beautiful possible way to consume two shots of gin in the shortest possible time. I have to do my job and he has to make me do my job and we can’t do this any other way and I don’t yet know that I can stop. 

Marcella White Campbell lives in San Francisco.