After a long, dark winter and roller coaster spring, it’s finally time to hit the lake, the park, the tailgate party, and the pool. As Italians have known for generations, this is the perfect season for a Spritz. No, not a schvitz, though there will be plenty of that.
What Is The Spritz?
The spritz is a style of mixed drink first popularized in Italy, specifically in the Veneto region of Northeastern Italy. To dilute it, it generally consists of a bitter liqueur, Prosecco sparkling wine, and club soda. Served over ice with fresh fruit garnish, the best-known version is the Aperol Spritz. In Italy, you’ll also find a lot of sparkling Campari refreshers, particularly enjoyed before heading out for the evening.
Spritz On The Menu
While no one says exactly what’s in Aperol, its 11% alcohol makes a low-alcohol cocktail perfect for responsible day drinking. But these days, bartenders are serving up all sorts of inventive variants, and Aperol is not required. At Homemakers Bar in Cincinnati, you’ll find four “Spritzers” on the menu, none of which include Aperol.
Our favorite is the light and breezy As You Like It: cucumber-infused dry vermouth, sparkling wine, and seltzer. For a more decadent, more complex drink, consider the Rolls Royce: clarified milk punch, plum sake, fino sherry, an absinthe rinse, topped with a sparkling brut rose. Meanwhile, San Francisco’s destination restaurant Bar Sprezzatura is proving the Italians are the best at employing Campari and Aperol but do so much more. The Ligabue cocktail, one of four spritzes, features Contratto bitter liqueur, blood orange ginger beer, and Cleto Chiarli Lambrusco frizzante wine. Each of the bar’s cocktails arrives with its snack in a tasty twist.
“The spritz is a cocktail that begs not to be complicated,” says Colin Berger, bar manager at Rare Society in Mill Creek, Washington. “I love introducing some of my favorite digestifs to the spritz treatment.”
The plethora of new American amaros and bitter liqueurs also means the drink’s boundaries are pushed in all directions. At Seattle’s Watershed Pub and Kitchen, you can sit outside and savor the Bouquet Spritz, a floral blend of Amaro Americano, Prosecco, St Germain, and tiki bitters. Pair it with their gourmet chicken-and-spinach pizza for a zesty afternoon outing. Even when bars stick with Aperol, they’re still experimenting: At Cathedral in the Moxy Hotel in the East Village, NYC, you’ll find the Salut de Copains featuring Ketel One Botanical Peach Orange, Lillet, blackberry preserves, lemon juice, and sparkling wine.
“Spritzes are great because they’re easy enough for the home bartender, but can be complex enough in flavor to land on the menus of the finest cocktail bars,” says Jessica Everett, bar manager of Esters Fair Prospect in Maui. “The trend has expanded today to include Negroni Sbagliato and even beer spritzes.”
As with all boozy, sparkly things, you can buy ready-to-drink versions online or on store shelves. The canteen offers three spritzes in, well, cans. The Blossom Gin is fruity and floral, hinting at hibiscus, while the Ruby Gin emphasizes grapefruit and rosemary. Or opt for bottles with the Italian-based Almare Spritz range, which plays on various botanicals in the bottles. And for those seeking zero-alcohol versions, check out Greenbar Distillery’s Hibiscus Un-Spritz in a can or Eva’s Spritz from the folks at For Bitter For Worse. The blend of roots and fruits–including orange peel, gentian root, rhubarb root, hibiscus, and more–creates a tart-and-sweet sparkler that perfectly evokes the amaro bite of a proper spritz.
The beauty of the spritz is that, since it’s generally a low-alcohol drink, it’s easy to mimic sans booze. At The Iris in New York, mocktail versions like the refreshing Cucumber Dill or Bianco Spritz featuring verjus, rosemary water, Roots Divino Bianco sparkling NA wine, and Fever Tree Mediterranean Tonic. Or consider the Ava from Mariena Mercer, beverage director at Las Vegas’s ultra-luxe Wynn Resort. As part of the Wynn Living Well program, Mercer (who’s been crafting incredible drinks in Vegas for over a decade), the Ava is a riff on the Aperol spritz, featuring Lyre’s Italian Orange Aperitif, ginger syrup, sparkling water, and passionfruit pearls.
Interested in crafting your elevated spritz cocktails? Whip up one of these tasty treats below, find a spot in the shade, and enjoy.
Mercy Me Washington DC
By Sami Katrib, Food, and Beverage Director
1 oz Italicus Bergamotto
1 oz Cappelletti
.75 oz Verjus Blend
.75 oz Strained Fresh Grapefruit Juice
Prosecco to Top
Build ingredients, topping with prosecco in a large wine glass with ice. Stir lightly and garnish with a grapefruit wheel.
An Australian version of the spritz
1.5 oz Portofino Dry Italian Gin
.5 Amaro Amara
.5 oz Dry Vermouth
Fill a mixing glass with ice. Add ingredients and stir well for 30 seconds. Strain into an Old Fashioned glass with a fresh ice cube, and garnish with a lemon peel/twist.