Aperol Spritz fever took hold this summer - but there’s more to a spritz than the bright orange beverage, as these recipes will teach you.
Two years ago, every bar – whether local, rooftop or beachside in Croatia – boasted a sea of Day-Glo orange drinks, dancing with bubbles. Just as Malibu and pineapple stole our 15-year-old hearts, the Aperol spritz, that highly quaffable combination of Aperol, prosecco, soda water and ice, claimed summer ’17 as its own. And this particularly hot summer, as the pavements sizzle and we itch to leave our offices for something refreshing to take the edge off, the surprise popularity of Aperol has caused an entirely new genre of cocktail to dominate menus: the spritz.
Puritans would argue that a spritz must contain an aperitivo (such as Campari or Aperol), sparkling wine or prosecco and a citrus or olive garnish to qualify. But those who simply love to drink are messing with the boundaries.
“Spritz began as a spirit or liqueur mixed with something sparkling – traditionally prosecco, champagne or soda water – but that template is being adapted all the time,” says Matt Whiley, European Bartender of the Year and author of The Modern Cocktail. “Today carbonation can come through kombucha, cider or zero-sugar flavoured waters. It’s giving us something really exciting to play around with.”
From Polpo’s Cynar gin fizz (Cynar is an aperitivo made with artichokes) to Milk & Honey’s hobbes fizz (that’s vodka, lemon, orange blossom, egg white and soda), spritzes are on every discerning cocktail menu from London to Lisbon and have come a long way from the white wine spritz of our student years. In fact, the spritz can be traced back to Habsburg-occupied northern Italy in the 19th century, when Austrian soldiers added a spritz of water to local wines to make them more palatable.
Today, the spritz is so popular that entire menus are devoted to them, like at the Fentimans Secret Spritz Garden in central London, which runs from 8–30 August (secretspritzgarden.com). It’s even found its way into a can: Ramona does a Ruby Grapefruit Wine Spritz (£4.95, harveynichols.com) and Marks & Spencer offers cherry juice and rosé, peach juice and white wine and aperitivo versions.
The trend is fuelled not only by the spritz’s extremely drinkable nature, but by our changing attitudes towards alcohol, as we seek something that doesn’t leave us wincing. “People want to drink lower ABV cocktails and the spritz is naturally lower in alcohol,” says Whiley. No wonder it’s the UK’s fastest-growing cocktail, with a quarter of drinkers choosing it this summer.
With that in mind, here is the Stylist guide on how to make spritzes and where to drink them.
The spritz equation
As long as your spritz contains a spirit or liqueur, some bubbles and a garnish, then it qualifies for the name – so dare to be adventurous. This is the rule of thumb: combine 55ml of spirit plus 85ml of sparkling wine (or similar, see options below) in an ice-filled glass, then top with a splash of soda (again – options!) and flourish with a complementary garnish.
Desert rain spritz
The spirit: Mezcal is the slightly smokier sister of tequila and it’s rapidly gaining popularity. Bruxo X mezcal (£35, masterofmalt.com) is a great option, with notes of citrus, peanuts and honey.
The bubbles: Sekforde has created botanical mixers for specific liqueurs with spritzes in mind (£1.95 each, harveynichols.com). The tequila and mezcal mixer is a blend of prickly pear, fig and cardamom.
The garnish: Add three extra-thin slices of fresh pear and lots of ice.
The spirit: Forget the white wine spritzes of your youth. Start with a nice dry wine – something you would actually choose to drink without bubbles. Aldi’s 2018 The Fire Tree Fiano (£4.99) comes highly recommended.
The bubbles: Soda water, plus lemon syrup (simmer the zest of 3 lemons, 115g caster sugar and 100ml of water for 5 minutes. Cool, then strain and mix in the juice of 3 lemons).
The garnish: Blackberries provide the perfect colour complement.
Rosé and Campari spritz
The spirit: Campari, an infusion of herbs and fruit, was created in Italy in 1860 and has ruled the aperitivo scene ever since. It is unapologetically bitter, so it works well with a sweet, sparkling rosé.
The bubbles: Award-winning Nyetimber from West Sussex put English sparkling wine on the map, and their rosé – bursting with raspberry – is great with Campari. Top the spritz with lemon soda.
The garnish: It’s a classic for a reason: one lemon wheel makes this drink the colour of a sunset.
St Germain spritz
The spirit: Every bottle of St Germain liqueur (£19, ocado.com) is marked with the vintage year, telling you exactly when the elderflowers were harvested. A brilliant addition to any cocktail trolley.
The bubbles: Dry prosecco is the perfect pairing here and you don’t need to spend a lot if it’s going into a spritz. Morrisons The Best Prosecco (£7, morrisons.com) boasts delicate blossom and lemon.
The garnish: A pretty sprig of lavender or some lemon thyme.
The spirit: If you don’t know much about cognac, think of it as a far smoother version of whisky. Hennessy VSOP Privilege Cognac (£51.25, thewhiskey exchange.com) is a good bet.
The bubbles: You need a dry cider to complement the cognac and Oliver’s Traditional Dry Fine Cider (£3,
oliversciderandperry.co.uk) offers the perfect blend of acidity and delicate apple flavours.
The garnish: Light a match and hold it 6cm away from a strip of orange peel, then squeeze the peel to release the oils into the spritz. Rub it around rim of the glass, then drop it into the drink.
Images: Telegramme, Harry Pedersen