The wine spritzer went through some dark years during the time coolers and alcopops had their heyday and Bartles & Jaymes was a picnic staple. But now, with the wealth of liqueurs the craft cocktail movement has brought to our shelves, making delicious and unique wine spritzers has never been easier.
Here’s the general idea: you balance two low-alcohol components, often something bitter with something semi-sweet, and top it with something cold and fizzy. The standard Italian formula is Campari (bitter) and sweet vermouth. From there, it’s whatever you darn well please. Top with club soda and it’s an Americano. Top sparkling wine and it’s a Negroni Sbagliato. Swap the Campari for Lillet and change the sweet vermouth to dry, and you have something crisp and floral. It’s really hard to go wrong.
Shoot for one-and-a-half ounces of liqueur and a handful of ice, topped with four ounces of bubbles. Shove in an orange slice—or don’t. Anything in the ballpark of this formula will be tasty. Here are some key components to consider.
Gentians or quinquinas are wonderful in a spritz. Campari is the bitter gold standard, but try Aperol if you like things sweeter. Floral liqueurs—elderflower, creme de violette—and fruit liqueurs—peach and pear—are prime spritz material, just make sure to balance them with something sharper. A tiny splash of gin gives a spritz a proofy, botanical bounce.
Save your richest vermouths (like Carpano Antica) for Manhattans and employ some lighter stuff (like Cocchi Rosa, above) for a spritz. Dry vermouth also mixes well—try Campari with dry vermouth, grapefruit juice, and cava.
A splash of fruit juice is a no-brainer in a spritz. Work in some lemon or lime if you have other very sweet components. Try a splash of grapefruit for a dry spritz, or pineapple for a sweet one. Steep berries or dried fruit in your liqueur to go the extra mile.
Cava and prosecco are go-tos, both dry and easy to mix with any combination of flavor. On the other end, a spritz might be the best use imaginable for too-sweet moscato—just pick a mildly bitter or floral liqueur and give it a big squeeze of lemon. It’s also perfectly acceptable to use club soda for any or all of your bubbly component.
It’s a lot of work to be “extra” in August, but this can be anything: herb garnishes, fresh fruit, pickled rose petals—go nuts. Or, just drop in an orange wedge and forget about it.