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How the Hugo Spritz Became 2023’s Drink of Summer

Our hot take: The Hugo spritz is to summer 2023 what the Dirty Shirley was to summer 2022. Both were crowned the drink of their respective seasons after rises to prominence on social media (the Hugo spritz currently has nearly 290 million views on TikTok) and each perfectly suited the mood of the moment. While the Dirty Shirley is boozy, bawdy and a little lowbrow—its popularity reflected a desire to let loose during our first post-Covid-restriction summer—the Hugo spritz is elegant, refreshing, free from bitterness and low-ABV, ushering us into a new era.

“It’s super sessionable,” adds Bruno Dias, New York brand ambassador for St. Germain, the elderflower liqueur most commonly used in Hugo spritzes. “You can have an entire day drinking with your friends and not have a terrible hangover.” He adds that a lot of drinkers are exploring lower-abv options, and this cocktail fits the bill.

Whether you’re regularly ordering these at the bar, or you want to make your own at home, here’s everything you need to know about the Hugo spritz.

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What Is a Hugo Spritz?

The Hugo spritz is a refreshing, low-alcohol sparkling wine cocktail with a gentle, floral flavor and a hint of herbaceous mint. The drink was originally made with an elderflower cordial or elderflower syrup and topped with Prosecco and soda water. This keeps with the standard spritz formula of three parts sparkling wine, two parts soda water and one part liqueur or cordial.

Today, most Hugo spritz cocktails are made with ready-made elderflower liqueur. This likely stemmed from the launch of St. Germain in 2007—a couple of years after the birth of the Hugo spritz in 2005. Additionally, fresh mint completes the ingredient list, either as a garnish or muddled into the drink itself.

“When you smack the leaves of the mint and all those oils come to the surface, that immediately translates to summer, regardless of where you are or in what season,” says Dias. Lime slices or wedges are sometimes also used as garnish.

Hugo Spritz History

While elderflower-based tonics likely existed prior to the official Hugo, the name Hugo spritz is frequently credited to Italian bartender Roland Gruber. Little is known about why he called it the Hugo, other than it won out over an alternative moniker of Otto spritz.

Gruber created the drink at San Zeno Bar, a cocktail bar in Italy’s South Tyrol region in northeast Italy, as an alternative to the spritz Veneziano, or Aperol spritz.

“The Hugo is a definitive Italian standard as highly regarded and widely accepted as any of its bitter, red counterparts,” says Jessica King, co-owner of Knoxville’s Brother Wolf, where it’s been on the menu since day one.

“The Hugo is a very popular cocktail in Eastern Europe,” Dias notes. He adds that some version of a sparkling elderflower drink likely existed in northern Europe as well prior to the official invention of the Hugo.

The Hugo spritz’s current rise to prominence, however, remains something of a mystery. Unlike the espresso martini or Aperol spritz crazes, it’s hard to pinpoint one event, publication or even one particular TikToker responsible for its popularity. But its appeal is undeniable.

“It’s been awhile that we’ve been seeing the popularity of the Hugo increasing,” says Dias. “In fact, the available stock of St. Germain in the U.S. was increased for this reason. “Reports that the Hugo spritz was trending have been coming up pretty much the whole year,” he says.

How to Make a Hugo Spritz

Recipe courtesy of Bruno Dias

Ingredients

  • 1.5 ounces elderflower liqueur (preferably St. Germain)
  • 8 Mint leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 2 ounces Prosecco
  • 2 ounces sparkling water
  • Lime wheels, for garnish

Instructions


Step 1

In a wine glass filled with ice, add elderflower liqueur and mint leaves. Stir to combine, gently smashing the mint leaves as you stir. Add Prosecco and sparkling water to top. Add several mint sprigs and lime wheels for garnish.

FAQs

Are There Variations of the Hugo Spritz?

The Hugo spritz is very easy to riff upon. Ratios of its primary three ingredients (elderflower liqueur, Prosecco and soda water) can easily be adjusted for taste or strength. Elderflower syrup or elderflower infusions can be used to lower the abv even further, and the herb used can easily be changed.

“We wanted to create a Hugo spritz without using any liqueur,” says Beau du Bois, vice president of bar and spirits at San Diego’s Marisi. “Mulling white wine with opal basil gives our Hugo more footing in Italian flavors and provides a lovely and unique color. We force-carbonate the opal basil and elderflower-infused white wine so that we can reach [Champagne-like] effervescence.”

What Is Elderflower Liqueur?

Elderflower liqueur is a lightly sweet and low-alcohol liqueur made from elderflower. It has a flavor similar to honeysuckle and lychee, with some fruity notes such as grapefruit and pear.

How Does the Hugo Spritz Compare to the Aperol Spritz?

The Hugo spritz follows a similar formula to the Aperol spritz, employing liqueur, sparkling wine and soda water. The hallmark of an Aperol spritz, however, is its citrusy and bitter notes, while a Hugo spritz is minty and floral, with no bitterness.