Puttin’ on the Spritz
Beat the Heat with Bubbles
Story by Meredith Jensen
Perfect for an afternoon spent by the backyard pool and a refreshing complement to grilled meats and vegetables, wine spritzers combine wine, bubbles, and perhaps a dash of a spirit into one classic beverage. These invigorating “patio pounders” are a popular summer cocktail for the wine crowd.
Despite their innocuous basic combination of club soda/sparkling water and wine, spritzers have caught a bad rap over the years. The word alone can bring up images of your great-aunt Karen berating a bartender or disenchanting cocktails in aluminum cans. Shake off the stereotypes! The once-improbable beermosa (beer + mimosa) is “A Thing” now, so why not give the spritzer its day in the summer sun?
There’s a history to the spritzer other than great-aunt Karen’s well documented affinity for the drink at family reunions. Call it a stretch, but you have the Napoleonic wars to thank for the spritzer’s ancestor: Italy’s Aperol spritz.
In the early 1800s as Austria-Hungary controlled northern Italy, Austrians took to adding a “spritz” of flat water to the bold, local wines to mellow them out. As time went on, carbonation made an appearance, as well as bitter liqueurs.
In 1919, Aperol hit the scene. The red-orange liqueur, which features bitter citrus notes drawn from flavors and aromas of oranges, rhubarb, and gentian root, was marketed as a drink for fit and sporty young people. It steadily gained in popularity and became a spritz staple in the 1950s, when it was mixed with Prosecco and soda water. Today, the drink is one of Italy’s most popular.
The most basic of spritzer recipes is simply mixing super chilled wine with club soda (or some sort of carbonated water or citrus beverage) served on the rocks. Thanks to the diluting effects of club soda/sparkling water and ice, the spritzer features a lower ABV than a standard glass of wine, so it can be enjoyed responsibly throughout the day with less of a chance of regretting it the next. That alone should be enough to add it to your warm-weather cocktail rotation.
The ratio of wine to sparkling water can be adjusted for your preference. Common acceptance is three parts wine to one part sparkling water, or two parts wine to one part sparkling water. Both beverages should be super chilled for the most refreshing results.
Pick a wine that you like! Crisp whites like Sauvignon blanc, Riesling, or Gewürztraminer and pleasing reds like Pinot noir and Garnacha work well in a spritzer, thanks to their fruity flavors and light tannins. Don’t be afraid to use a boxed wine, especially if you’re making cocktails in bulk.
Build your cocktail in a rocks or wine glass. Start with your ice (opt for larger cubes that will melt slowly) then add your wine, any fruit or liqueurs, then top off with your clear fizzy beverage of choice.
Experiment with different liqueurs, fruits, herbs and bitters to take your spritzer to the next level. Just steer clear of diet citrus sodas that may contain chemical additives like aspartame, which will overwhelm your flavor profiles and nuanced aromas.
Moscato Lemon Spritzer
(per individual drink)
• 2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
• 4 oz. Moscato
• 2 oz. seltzer
• lemon slice for garnish
Fill glass with ice
Add lemon juice, Moscato and top with seltzer.
Serve with a lemon slice or twist for garnish.
Can be served chilled with no ice if desired.
Note: Don’t deviate from the this 3-2-1 ratio if you want to make a “proper” Aperol spritz. Mind the order of ingredients as well to keep the Aperol from sinking to the bottom of the glass.
• 3 parts Prosecco
• 2 parts Aperol
• 1 part sparkling water
Serve over ice in a wine or rocks glass. Garnish with a slice of orange.
Can’t find Aperol? Cheat a little and use Campari.
Both Italian aperitifs are owned by the same company and have relatively similar flavor profiles. Campari, however, has twice the amount of alcohol as Aperol, so keep that in mind when mixing or serving great-aunt Karen.
Summer Strawberry Spritzer
(per individual drink: plus puree)
• white wine (suggest Sauvignon Blanc)
• sparkling seltzer water
• fresh strawberries (about 8)
• lemon slices
Cut up six large strawberries, and puree in a blender with a few teaspoons of water. If you are only making a single drink puree can be frozen in an ice cube tray for another day).
Add a few ice cubes to a wine glass.
Top with 2 tsp of strawberry puree.
Add a sliced strawberry and lemon slices.
Fill with 4-5 ounces of wine.
Top with seltzer.
(For a refreshing twist add a sprig of mint)