Four Ways to Drink Italy's Most Versatile Cocktail, the Spritz | Wine Enthusiast
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Four Ways to Drink Italy’s Most Versatile Cocktail, the Spritz

An informal recipe of bubbles plus bitter plus garnish, the Venetian-born spritz cocktail couldn’t be easier to create. Its beginnings, however, are cloudy at best.

Some believe it dates back to the Austrian occupation of the region during the 1800s, when foreign soldiers unaccustomed to Italian wines would add a splash of water to dilute them. Others swear by any of several exaggerated rumors of bar fights. And as if to confuse matters more, Aperol’s sweeping advertising campaign came along in the 20th century and lay claim to the category, largely dispelling any curiosity about its history.

The spritz has since become tied to the tradition of aperitivo and the romantic notion of Italian leisure, and, today, is one of the most popular cocktails in Italy.

The past few years have seen a growth in its popularity in the U.S., too, thanks in part to a bartender-driven trend toward classic drinks, a highly riffable ingredient list and a crowd that seeks low-alcohol sippers.

Four to Try

Bars around the country are embracing the twistable framework of the spritz. Here are a few favorites.

Diablo Spumante

Courtesy Andrew Cacioppo, general manager, Brezza Cucina, Atlanta

Using a few more ingredients than the traditional spritz, this one brings peach, grapefruit and lime, plus pamplemousse liqueur, to the party.

  • 3 ounces rosé (Cacioppo uses 2015 Domaine des Diables Bonbon Rosé)
  • ½ ounce pamplemousse liqueur
  • ½ ounce Campari
  • ¾ ounce lime juice
  • 3 dashes peach bitters
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
  • Fresh peach slices (for garnish)
  • Splash of Prosecco

In white wine glass filled with ice, add rosé, liqueur, Campari, lime juice and bitters. Stir 30 seconds. Add peach slices, then stir 5 times. Top with Prosecco.

Limone Spritz

Courtesy Justin Kaderabek, bar manager, Monteverde Restaurant & Pastificio, Chicago

Strega, a saffron-infused Italian liqueur, adds a golden hue to this lemony cocktail.

  • 2 ounces dry vermouth
  • ⅓ ounces Strega
  • ¾ ounces tonic water
  • 3 ounces Prosecco
  • Lemon twist (for garnish)

In white wine glass, add all ingredients (except garnish). Stir to combine, and add ice. Garnish with lemon twist.

Ramona In The Afternoon

Courtesy Cullen Campbell, chef/co-owner, Crudo, Arizona

This canny concoction combines Ramona canned wine with Prosecco and bitters.

  • 2 ounces Ramona canned wine
  • 2 ounces Prosecco
  • 1 ½ ounces Aperol
  • 1 Castelvetrano olive (for garnish)

In wine glass, add Ramona, Prosecco, Aperol and ice. Stir to combine. Garnish with olive.

The Spritzkovitz

Courtesy Alison Dryer, bar manager, Hersh’s, Baltimore

A riff on the restaurant owners’ name, this blend of brut and grapefruit balances bitter bubbles with sweet St-Germain.

  • 2 ounces fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice
  • 1 ounce St-Germain
  • ½ ounce Campari
  • Brut sparkling wine
  • Lemon twist (for garnish)

In cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine juice, St-Germain and Campari. Shake vigorously, then strain into Collins glass filled with fresh ice. Top with sparkling wine. Garnish with lemon twist.