Summer drinking is the most fun type of drinking, and the spritz may be the most summery drink. They're light, bright, extremely drinkable and infinitely riffable. They're also super easy to make, which is helpful if you've already had a couple.
There are three components to the spritz: sparkling wine, some sort of bitter liqueur and soda water, the basic ratio of which is 3:2:1, according to Aperol.com, or 2:2:1 according to me. If you plan to be doing some serious day-drinking, you can always back off on the liqueur and bubbly and up the soda water, as you are not beholden to any strict ratios. Now, let's talk bottles. [Note: Some of these brands are centric to the US, but most should be available at larger liquor stores.)
This is the most important decision you will make in your spritzing adventure, as the liqueur is what will determine the primary flavour of your beverage. It's also my favourite component to play around with, and developing a new spritz recipe around a new amaro or vermouth is a delightful activity.
- Aperol and Campari: Though these are two, distinct liqueurs, it's kind of hard to talk about one without talking about the other, and I consider Aperol to almost be a "Campari light." Aperol is a good, classic choice, and has a great citrusy, rhubarb-y, slightly bitter flavour. Aperol is sweeter and a little more "summery" tasting than Campari, but it's about half as alcoholic (11% vs. around 20% ABV). Campari reads as a little "darker" and herbaceous, and definitely much more bitter, but that's what I'm into, and I think it makes a great, very drinkable spritz.
- Cynar: Moving away from the two pink options, we have Cynar, a predominantly artichoke-flavored liqueur with an ABV of 16.5%. Don't let "artichoke" scare you; it reads more as "woodsy" than "vegetable garden." It has a bittersweet flavour that is similar to Campari, though it's lacking in that "bitter orange" flavour. This would definitely be your least fruity, though very flavorful and complex, option.
- St. Germain: Now we're getting really summery. This elderflower liqueur is sweet and floral and just a bit syrupy. As such, it responds really well to a bone dry sparkling wine. Plus, the bottle is super pretty and having it on your shelf will make you feel like a very fancy grown up.
- Bigallet China China: Allow me to introduce you to my new favourite thing. This French liqueur is made from a combination of sweet and bitter oranges, along with anise, gentian, cinchona, clove, and other plant parts. It's very orange peel heavy, but all of that is balanced out by some warm herbal notes and a bit of bitterness. It's freaking delicious, and would make a really interesting spritz.
- Vermouth: Let's not forget our new BFF vermouth. Sweet or dry, red or white, pretty much any quality vermouth would make a good spritz, depending on your preference. Carpano Antica Formula has some nice vanilla notes that would sing in a spritz, and obviously I enjoy the bittersweet wonder of Punt e Mes in anything.
- Lillet: This aperitif wine is made with Bordeaux grapes and macerated fruit (mostly oranges) and has a fruity, but not cloying, flavour perfect for summer sipping. Adding Lillet to your spritz will mean you're doubling up on the wine, but there is nothing even a little wrong with that.
But liqueur is only one alcoholic aspect of the spritz, my friends. We still have wine to discuss.
Since the spritz is Italian, Prosecco would be the obvious choice, but French champagne, Spanish Cava, or any wine with bubbles in it will do the job. Since you are going to be mixing it with a super flavorful spirit and diluting it with soda water, I wouldn't recommend getting a super nice bottle, but aim for one in the $15-$20 range. My best tip for picking a bottle of bubbly for this type of thing is to go to up to whoever is running the wine aisle and say "I need a wine for spritzes," and let them pick one for you. It helps if you know what kind of liqueur you'll be using too.
Now that the two alcoholic components of the spritz have been addressed, let's move on to the only slightly less exciting water.
You may think that not a lot can be futzed with here. How many different ways can you add carbonated water to a beverage? A good bit, it turns out. Here are a few of my favourite ways to add effervescent hydration to my summery beverage.
- Gerolsteiner: Look, there is nothing wrong with grabbing some home brand soda water and calling it a day, but I find the bracing minerality and delightfully aggressive carbonation in Gerolsteiner to be ultra-refreshing.
- La Croix: I am one of those crazy La Croix people whose only source of hydration is La Croix, usually grapefruit. I don't love their plain -- I find it oddly sweet -- but I adore most of their other flavours. (Yes, even the sunscreen-reminiscent coconut.) Since La Croix only contains fruit "essence" and no sugar, they're a good way to add a bit of subtle, fruity flavour without overwhelming or weighing your beverage down.
- Soft drink: I'm not talking Sprite. I'm talking fancy soft drink. A high-quality ginger ale is a great way to add a ton of ginger flavour to any alcoholic (or nonalcoholic) beverage. If you visit a specialty store, you should be able to find options that are brightly acidic in a ton of interesting flavours like lavender, cucumber, and rhubarb.
Of course, you could always just grab a two-litre bottle of mineral water for less than $2. No one would fault you for that.
Putting it All Together
Now, even though all of the above could go into a spritz, that by no means it should all go into the same spritz. I can't give you a recipe for every potential spritz that you could create, but I can give you recipes for the ones that sound particularly delicious to me. Assembly for each is pretty much the same; get a rocks or a big, fancy wine glass, fill with ice, and add sparkling wine, sparkling water, and non-sparkling liqueur. If you add the ingredients in this order, the denser liqueur will sink to the bottom and mix with the rest of the beverage, rendering it basically self-stirring.
- Classic Campari Spritz: 60ml Prossecco + 30ml soda water + 60ml Campari, garnish with some sort of citrus zest or wedge. I like a big strip of lemon peel, oils expressed and rubbed around the rim of the glass.
- Elderflower Spritz: 80ml dry sparkling wine + 30ml soda water + 30ml St. Germain, garnish with tart, seasonal fruit, like blackberries, or something floral like a sprig of lavender.
- Aperol Rosé Spritz: 60ml dry to medium dry sparkling rosé + 30ml grapefruit La Croix + 60ml Aperol, garnish with grapefruit zest.
- Carpano Antica Spritz: 60ml Prossecco + 30ml soda water + 60ml Carpano Antica, garnish with some form of lemon.
Hopefully those will get your gears turning, and you'll be able to come up with enough spritzes to last you all summer long. Just remember not to take spritzing too seriously. Like the beverage itself, making them should be a bright, effervescent, sunny process.