Spaggle that drink! Add some sparkling wine

By / Wine + Drinks / December 11th, 2018 / 9
Spaggle Cocktail
Spaggle (English)


Definition: To add a splash of sparkling wine to any cocktail.

Example: “There was a lot of spaggling at the party last night; I think that’s why I have a headache today.”

It’s not every day you get to witness a new word enter the drinking lexicon. But it’s easy to predict that “spaggle” is destined to become a regular term in cocktail circles, because it’s the absolutely perfect word to describe the action of randomly and haphazardly adding sparkling wine to cocktails. Here’s the amazing, true-life story of how it came to be.

Josh Lindley

Josh Lindley, co-founder of Bartender Atlas

“I wish I could claim credit for creating the verb,” says Josh Lindley, co-founder, with Jessica Blaine Smith, of Bartender Atlas, a media outlet that makes it easy to keep tabs on who works where. “But it was actually Jacob Wharton-Shukster who came up with it — in the parking lot at the Dillon’s Distillery.”

We need to set the scene a little here: It was a hot July afternoon and a jigger of bartenders were unwinding with cocktails after the Dillon’s Cup, an annual cocktail competition held on-site at Dillon’s in Beamsville, Ontario. Wharton-Shukster, owner of Toronto’s Chantecler, had been a judge and, as a reward for a job well done, was sampling Dillon’s pre-bottled Negroni.

“There was a bar station there that was making cocktails with cava, so Jacob walked over and asked the bartender, ‘Can you spaggle this for me?’” recalls Lindley. “Without any hesitation, we all knew exactly what he meant. And then, for the rest of the evening, nobody was drinking anything unless it was spaggled.”

The reason the term was so perfectly clear-cut and caught on so quickly had a lot to do with the Negroni Sbagliato (bungled Negroni), a cocktail invented in Milan’s Bar Basso in 1972, when, according to legend, bartender Mirko Stoccherro accidentally made a Negroni with sparkling wine instead of gin. It was a hit. And, sure, “sbaggled” would be a more faithful term, but somehow it doesn’t have the same ring to it as “spaggled.”

Can you spaggle any drink? Is it okay to spaggle after Labour Day? Are there rules about when to spaggle and when not to? Yes, but not very strict ones.

“I don’t think you need to spaggle an Old Fashioned,” says Lindley. “Or anything barrel-aged. But a spaggled Bijou is delicious. If you throw some dry sparkling on that, all the sudden you’ve got an herbaceous, bubbly, delicious drink.”

Which is a handy thing to know, given that the Bijou (gin, vermouth, green Chartreuse) isn’t always exactly a crowd-pleaser. In fact, Lindley thinks this is probably a key to successful spaggling, suggesting you probably can’t go wrong adding it to any drink a novice drinker might struggle with (meaning drinks with overwhelming and esoteric flavour profiles). It’s not just that the wine dilutes it, somehow spaggling also manages to pull disparate, challenging flavours together and harmonize them.

Want to get started spaggling? You could head to Chantecler, where both Lindley and Wharton-Shukster both tend bar, since they’re putting a “spaggle any cocktail” option on the menu. Or, for home enthusiasts, Lindley suggests his original “Put Me In, Coach” — sort of an inverse brandy Boulevardier — as a great cocktail to spaggle.

Put Me In, Coach

1 1/2 oz Campari
1 oz brandy
1 oz sweet vermouth
2 oz cava

In an ice-filled mixing glass, stir the Campari, brandy and sweet vermouth together. Strain into chilled Nick and Nora glass and spaggle with two ounces of cava. Garnish with a twist of lemon.


Christine Sismondo is a National Magazine Award-Winning drinks columnist and the author of Mondo Cocktail: A Shaken and Stirred History as well as America Walks into a Bar: A Spirited History of Taverns and Saloons, Speakeasies and Grog Shops.

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