The Aperol Spritz: a playful, slightly sweet, slightly bitter sipper is a consummate fixture for happy hours and patio imbibing. Wander the streets of Milan during the spring or summer and you’re bound to spots dozens of goblets holding this red-orange bubbly concoction, and that trend has fully arrived in most American cities. But with just a tweak to one ingredient, and you have a similarly refreshing and pleasing afternoon tipple that evokes the flavors of the Pacific Northwest: the Ranye West.
Beyond a play on the name of the famously controversial rapper, the Ranye West is named for the nickname given to one the Northwest’s most popular cheap brews: Rainier Beer. Named for the majestic mountain in the Washington part of the Cascade Range, Rainier beers go by many names in the Pacific Northwest, including Vitamin R and Ranye, a playful faux-French pronunciation of the name, which is actually like Rain-Ear. Like the prosecco normally called for in an Aperol Spritz, Rainier is light, bubbly, crisp and golden. Of course it’s also around $1 a can, unlike most prosecco.
A staple of dive bars, often served with a shot of whiskey or tequila for industry workers after their shifts, Rainier has become a symbol of Pacific Northwest working class. But it’s also found a place in Shandies and other beer-based drinks due to its popularity. The Ranye West, from Seattle bartender Jeff Steiner, is one such drink, with Rainier replacing the wine and club soda in the spritz. A generous splash of lemon juice adds back in some of the acidity that gets lost when not using wine, and a few dashes of Angostura bitters brings some depth and complexity to the drink.
Of course, it’s perfectly acceptable to use another domestic canned lager of your choosing. It can’t technically be a Ranye West, as it lacks the beer the gives it the name, but it can still be a delicious and affordable alternative to the standard Aperol Spritz. It’s best to stick to locally made lagers, though. Part of the purpose behind the drink is celebrating the local low-brow beer culture in addition to microbreweries and craft ales.