If there is a more perfect summer cocktail than the Spritz, we’ve yet to lay our lips on it. Leslie Pariseau, who literally co-wrote the book about it (that would be Spritz: Italy’s Most Iconic Aperitivo Cocktail, with Recipes, Ten Speed Press, $19) sums up the drink’s vast appeal this way. “They can be made by the pitcher, and Spritz recipes are loose blueprints meant for riffing,” she says. “You could splash one together and be back in your flamingo inner tube in 60 seconds flat, no jigger required.”
At this year’s Tales of the Cocktail (the 15th annual booze conference held in New Orleans), the drink seemed to be everywhere (which couldn’t be more fitting, as toting a Spritz in a to-go cup is really the only way to alleviate the schvitz of New Orleans in July). Aperol reps were thrusting cups of them into sweaty hands in the Hotel Monteleone lobby, Pariseau’s co-author, Talia Baiocchi, led a seminar about how the classic Italian aperitivo has become a 21st-century worldwide trend and the bartenders at Absolut’s House of Elyx party served up the light and delicate Elyx Spritz all week long.
Of course, the low-ABV crowd pleaser can be found in bars across the country, from D.C. to Portland. These are nine Spritz cocktails to take you through the end of summer.
Can't make it to any of the bars on this list? Try making the Scarlet Spritz at home.
Head bartender Zach Sasser is big on liqueurs and cordials, whose flavors can often be overshadowed by higher-proof hooch. In this drink at the Austin gastropub, he shakes Aperol with fresh lemon juice, house-made orange bitters, smoked bitters and egg white and serves it tall and topped with bubbly. “A blend of the summertime favorite prosecco, the classic Italian apéritif and egg white draws your mind in while the addition of two different bitters really sparks your curiosity,” says Sasser.
When an island vacation just isn’t in the cards, reach for this tropical take from the Mediterranean-inspired spot in the The St. Gregory Hotel in Washington, D.C. Aperol is shaken with pamplemousse liqueur, lime juice and pineapple juice, and the drink is served over ice topped with prosecco and garnished with an orange arrow and fruit skewer. “The Spritz is a refreshing and sophisticated way to enjoy your bubbly wine during the hot summer months,” says hotel manager Rachel Ferrall.
“The effervescent, low-ABV Spritz is extremely versatile, able to deftly highlight the base liqueur or amaro,” says Mother’s Ruin bartender Anna Wingfield. The classic recipe gets a dose of savory saltiness with the addition of celery bitters, while the Aperol itself is infused with fresh mango. It’s served in a large ice-filled goblet and garnished with a paprika-dusted mango slice. “Spritzes are effervescent, refreshing and easy to prepare,” she says. “You can enjoy more than one or two while at the pool, beach or brunch!”
Head bartender Jenn Knott calls this drink at Theater District Italian spot 312 Chicago a Negroni-Spritz mashup, and it perfectly mingles each with a hint of bitterness, sweetness and a light effervescent quality. She adds Pisco Portón, Giffard Lichi-Li lychee liqueur and Aperol to a flute along with a few ice cubes. It's topped with a float of moscato and garnished with a grapefruit rosette.
The appeal of this Spritz variant at the casual Italian spot is that it still boasts the orange bitterness found in the traditional Venetian quaffer, while being balanced by sweetness from seasonal strawberries and getting a boost in body from a splash of vodka. To make it, beverage director John Michael O’Shea mixes Aperol with vodka, lemonade and strawberry puree and tops the drink with prosecco. “This Spritz is a summer dream for any occasion including brunch, lunch and happy hour,” he says.
Like its tongue-in-cheek name, this Spritz at Sicilian-focused restaurant Rosario in Adams Morgan is supposed to be fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously, says general manager and beverage director Bob Wagner. St-Germain elderflower liqueur is mixed with cantaloupe and sage syrup, served in a flute topped with prosecco and garnished with a skewered melon ball. “It’s everything you love about enjoying friends in great weather, should you be on our patio, at the beach, a crab boil or on a boat,” he says.
What’s the one downside to enjoying a Spritz? Getting to the end of it, of course. Head bartender Brandon Lockman meets that challenge with this Spritz version filled with fresh, seasonal flavors. He infuses Aperol with strawberries and stirs it with Lillet Blanc apéritif and rhubarb bitters, served in an absinthe-rinsed Nick & Nora glass and topped with sparkling wine. It comes alongside a tiny carafe nestled in ice, to refill your glass as it’s depleted.
Saving the Spritz for aperitivo hour? Non c'è modo, says Gerber Group managing partner Vinny Mauriello, who believes they can be enjoyed anytime, especially on the terrace of this cocktail bar located in Grand Central Terminal. Grey Goose vodka and St-Germain elderflower liqueur are mixed with fresh lime juice and mint and topped with prosecco and soda. Light, bubbly and exceptionally refreshing, it goes down obscenely easily. “It’s like summer in a wine glass,” says Mauriello.
Mixing your cocktail