This week on The Plus Factor, we’re talking about the spritz, a buzzy, bitter-filled beverage that’s shaking up summer cocktail lists.
If you’re feeling more “okay” than “yes, way” about making rosé your signature drink this summer, it might be time to take a break from the blush (or even orange) wines in favor of a less-intoxicating, but equally pretty sunset-hued drink: the spritz.
The classic Italian aperitivo, AKA a cocktail made with bitters believed to aid digestion, has recently found its way back onto menus and into the hearts of those living the low-alcohol lifestyle by hitting on two of the season’s biggest cocktail trends. “This year, [it’s all about] ‘healthy’ drinks and herbaceous flavors,” says Gates Otsuji the regional chef de bar at The Standard High Line in New York. “Americans are gradually moving toward a lighter style of alcohol consumption, where there’s less sense of urgency to get drunk quickly.”
The desire to get buzzed—not blitzed—is basically where the idea of the spritz originated from in the early 1900s. At the time, Venice was still part of the Austrian Empire and its foreign occupiers, unaccustomed to the higher alcohol content of Italian wine, started watering it down and calling it a “spritz,” the German term for “to spray.” Modern iterations of the traditional cocktail (made with sparkling wine, bitters, and seltzer water) have started showing up on the menus of some of the coolest bars around the globe, with mixologists elevating the aperitivo (which is typically ordered before dinner) to an anytime drink with some seriously wow-inducing concoctions.
Americans are gradually moving toward a lighter style of alcohol consumption, where there’s less sense of urgency to get drunk quickly.
For example, The Standard High Line’s Bootsy Collins features a playful reinvention of flavors you’d find on the Amalfi coast—fresh basil, bergamot, a touch of lemon, and prosecco. At London’s Plum and Spilt Milk, the French 75 includes a bubbly pop of champagne, and in DTLA, Upstairs at The Ace Hotel serves up the China My China and Tokyo Drift, two Asian-inspired sparkling cocktails infused with flavors like orgeat and chamomile.
Other than a seemingly endless amount of interpretations, one of the main reasons the spritz has made such a splash is that it’s the perfect rebuttal to the heavy-pour ethos that’s been consuming cocktail culture as of late—its renaissance is quite literally refreshing. “There had been this wave of really strong, stirred, boozy drinks—and there was a bit of fatigue,” says Leslie Pariseau, author of the definitive Spritz: Italy’s Most Iconic Aperitivo Cocktail. “[Bartenders] became interested in this idea that you could have low-alcohol cocktails and they could be delicious, and they didn’t necessarily have to be viewed as feminine or not as serious. There was this whole category that hadn’t really been explored and discovered yet.”
But who says bartenders should have all the fun? To DIY a spritz at home, all you need is three oz. of prosecco, a dash of bitters ( or two oz. of an herb-infused liquor like Aperol—for a 100-percent natural option, go with Contratto), and a splash of seltzer water. A lounge chair and cute suit are optional, but highly recommended, too.
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