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Six Refreshing Takes On An Aperol Spritz

A potted history of our favourite summer cocktail – plus six spritz recipes to try now

It was about three summers ago when the spritz became part of our everyday lives. Little did we know that this frivolous cocktail, seemingly built to be tossed back with abandon, had such a backstory.

While the proto-spritz can be traced back to Greek and Roman times, the modern spritz has its roots – the Italian mythos goes – in Habsburg-occupied northern Italy in the 19th century, when Austrian soldiers introduced the practice of adding a “spritz” (as in spray) of water to the region’s wines, in an effort to make them more pleasing to their Riesling-weaned palates. The drink went through a number of iterations, first with the inclusion of soda water at the turn of the 19th century, then the addition of the all-important bitter element (which made it both undeniably Italian and a proper cocktail) in the 1920s and early 1930s, and finally the widespread addition of prosecco in the 1990s. Today, the archetypal spritz is more or less a combination of three parts prosecco, two parts bitter liqueur and one part soda. And, thanks to Aperol, which has built a marketing strategy around the Spritz, it’s now Italy’s most popular cocktail.

There are countless riffs on the bitter, bubbly, low-alcohol formula that has become nothing short of a phenomenon in Italy. The drink’s blueprint has spawned an entire category of new drinks, from those that swap prosecco for Lambrusco, tonic for soda water, sherry for white wine, and shrubs (vinegar-based fruit syrups) for fresh fruit. And though not always explicitly called spritzes, the low-alcohol cocktail movement, which includes classic aperitivi (drinks meant to open a meal) such as the Americano, coolers and more, often carries spritzes under its own umbrellas of easygoing effervescence. Spritzes incognito, you might say.

Here, we share six different takes on the spritz: three classic recipes and three contemporary twists from some of the world’s best cocktail bars.

Venetian spritz

The spritz that launched a thousand spritzes, the Venetian spritz is made with a range of bitter liqueurs, including the ubiquitous Aperol from Padua and the more locally beloved Select (thought to be the original bitter used in the Venetian spritz). Always garnished with a skewered olive and a slice of citrus, this spritz is the most widely recognised classic and the standard-bearer of spritz living across Italy.

Aperol is the most popular bitter liqueur used in the spritz. It is also the sweetest. If you prefer a more bracingly bitter spritz, try splitting Aperol with Campari (1:1). And if you can find them, Contratto Aperitif, Contratto Bitter, Mauro Vergano’s Americano and Cappelletti Aperitivo Americano are four aperitivo bitters we find ourselves returning to over and over again in this classic formula.

Ingredients:
2oz (57ml) bitter liqueur
3-4oz (85-114ml) prosecco
2oz (57ml) soda water

Glass:
Rocks or wine glass

Garnish:
Olive and orange half-wheel

Method:
Build the ingredients in a rocks or wine glass, over ice, and add the garnish.

White spritz

This version of the white spritz or spritz liscio – the first vestige of spritz ancestry – with soda water, emerged in the first years of the 20th century, and is a malleable blueprint created to suit each drinker’s palate. Simply add a splash of homemade syrup or fruit liqueur to a base of white wine and soda, and garnish with abandon.

Ingredients:
4oz (114ml) dry white wine
2oz (57ml) soda water
½oz (14ml) lemon syrup

Glass:
Wine glass

Garnish:
Seasonal citrus, herbs or fruit

Method:
Build the ingredients in a wine glass over ice and add the garnish.

Bicicletta

Either a white spritz with the addition of Campari or a Venetian spritz that calls for white wine instead of prosecco, the bicicletta is named after the mode of transportation in which its drinkers toddle home after several drinks at the local café. Originating in Lombardia in northwest Italy in the 1930s, it’s almost exclusively consumed with Campari.

Ingredients:
1-2oz (28-57ml) Campari
3oz (85ml) white wine
Soda water

Glass:
Wine glass

Garnish:
Lemon half-wheel

Method:
Build the ingredients in a wine glass over ice and add the garnish.

Aperol Betty

from Terroni, Los Angeles

The Aperol Betty is barely more than a glorified, bittersweet mimosa. At Terroni in Los Angeles, Aperol is mixed with fresh orange and grapefruit juices, both of which freshen the liqueur’s bite, and then topped with prosecco for a cooler-style spritz that is appropriate morning, noon or night.

Ingredients:
2oz (57ml) Aperol
1oz (28ml) fresh orange juice
½oz (14ml) fresh grapefruit juice
3oz (85ml) prosecco

Glass:
Collins or rocks

Garnish:
Orange wheel

Method:
Add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker, add ice and shake. Strain over ice into a rocks or Collins glass. Top with prosecco and garnish with an orange wheel.

Rib tickler

by Mr Alex Day, created for Nitecap, New York

This drink was born out of the idea to create a more sippable, bubbly white negroni (a variation on the classic using Suze, gin, and Lillet Blanc or blanc vermouth). To start, bartender Mr Alex Day was set on maintaining the white negroni’s most distinctive element – bitter, gentian-forward Suze. From there, he built in a sour recipe with lemon juice, St-Germain and simple syrup, and maintained its backbone with dry, spicy Dolin. Though the drink doesn’t contain a traditional prosecco topper, it has the lighthearted spritz spirit with its bittersweet twinge, sunshine-yellow hue and bubbly personality.

For the simple syrup

Ingredients:
1 cup sugar
1 cup water

Method:
Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan over a very low heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and let sit for at least 30 minutes. Bottle and store in the fridge for up to one month.

For the cocktail

Ingredients:
2oz (57ml) Dolin Dry Vermouth
¾oz (21ml) Suze
½oz (14ml) St-Germain
½oz (14ml) fresh lemon juice
¼oz (7ml) simple syrup
Soda water

Glass:
Wine glass

Garnish:
Grapefruit half-wheel

Method:
Pour the vermouth, Suze, St-Germain, lemon juice and simple syrup in a wine glass over ice. Top with soda water and add the garnish.

Diamond spritz fizz

by Mr Isaac Shumway, created for Tosca, San Francisco

The diamond fizz was born around the turn of this century, when the fizz was hitting the big time in American bars. A deceptively strong and highly drinkable mixture, it replaces the gin fizz’s soda water with champagne, transforming it into a royale of sorts. Mr Isaac Shumway’s spritz-ified version replaces the gin with Aperol and dry vermouth, the sugar with honey syrup and amaro and the lemon juice with orange juice. The result is a fluffy orange cloud of a cocktail that tastes something like a bitter Orange Julius.

For the honey syrup

Ingredients:
1 cup honey
½ cup water

Method:
Combine the honey and water in a saucepan over a very low heat. Stir until the honey is dissolved. Remove from the heat and let sit for at least 30 minutes. Bottle and store in the fridge for up to one month.

For the cocktail

Ingredients:
1½ oz (43ml) Aperol
¼oz (7ml) fresh lemon juice
½oz (14ml) Dolin Dry Vermouth
½oz (14ml) honey syrup
¼oz (7ml) Gran Classico Bitter
1 tsp fresh orange juice
1 egg white
2½oz (71ml) sparkling wine

Glass:
Collins

Garnish:
Orange twist

Method:
Add the Aperol, lemon juice, vermouth, syrup, Gran Classico, orange juice and egg white to a cocktail shaker. Shake without ice, then add ice and shake very hard for 20 seconds. Strain into a Collins glass over a very small amount of ice. Slowly top with the sparkling wine and add the garnish.


Spritz: Italy’s Most Iconic Aperitivo Cocktail (Bantam Press, UK; Ten Speed Press, US) by Mses Talia Baiocchi and Leslie Pariseau is out now

Cocktail essentials

  • Asprey Tell-Me-How Sterling Silver Cocktail Shaker

  • Phaidon Where Bartenders Drink Hardcover Book

  • Tom Dixon Plum Copper-Plated Tray

  • Cedes Milano Bamboo and Stainless Steel Bar Set

  • Soho Home Barwell Cut Crystal Ice Bucket

  • Soho Home Barwell Cut Crystal Rocks Glasses Set