The Story of the Spritz

Pop, fizz, clink. Sipping our way through citrus season spritzes, from Italy to Brooklyn.

We sat down with Liz Rubin, Bi-Rite’s Category Manager for Wine, Beer, + Spirits, to learn more about the not so humble spritz.

We sat down with Liz Rubin, Bi-Rite’s Category Manager for Wine, Beer, + Spirits, to learn more about the not so humble spritz.

Let’s start with the basics: what is a spritz?

A spritz is a sparkling wine-based cocktail made with prosecco or a dry white wine, a bitter liqueur (amaro), soda water, and citrus. Many people think of the spritz as a summer drink, but traditionally, they’re enjoyed all year round and are best during California’s citrus season when the fruit component is at peak of season taste. Light, lower in ABV than a cocktail, and easy to drink, they’re a refreshing way to prepare your palate for delicious food and drink to come.

Where did the spritz come from?

The spritz has its origins in Veneto, Italy, where prosecco comes from. The story goes that the spritz originated during the 1800s when Austrians visiting Italy would dilute Italian wines with a “spritz” (German for “splash”) of soda water to make them lighter and more to their taste. As time went on, wine became prosecco, and Italians started to supplement the drink with fortified wines, and then liqueurs like amari (plural of amaro). In the 1950s, the Aperol Spritz (a recipe created by the brothers who owned Aperol) came bursting onto the scene and has been a staple at Italian aperitivo hour ever since.

What is an amaro?

An amaro is a bittersweet and syrupy liqueur, traditionally made from ingredients native to its place of origin. Campari and Aperol, for example, highlight the flavors of Northern Italy – sour orange, gentian root, and rhubarb root. Averna, another popular amaro, hails from Sicily and has notes of anise, citrus, juniper berries, myrtle, rosemary, and sage. Amari are used in cocktails from manhattans to spritzes, or can be sipped on their own.

Does the amaro used in a spritz need to be Italian? 

No. In fact, I’m so excited about some of the American amari I’ve been able to bring into the Markets lately. There are some really incredible domestic ones that are being made using traditional methods, with local foraged ingredients, highlighting the terroir from the immediate surroundings. Patrick Miller launched Faccia Brutto in Brooklyn, New York.  His small-batch products are made with ingredients sourced from New York and the North East with a goal of reviving old Italian recipes and methods, in the United States. Samantha Sheehan of Poe Wines focuses on California citrus as her main flavor enhancer. Both reflect a different take on the Italian classic and, I think, they make some of the most complex, delicious, and drinkable spritzes I’ve ever tasted.

With all of the cocktail recipes out there, and with such an amazing selection of wines in the Market, why should we be drinking spritzes? What makes them special?

The spritz is delicious and refreshing, especially during citrus season! They’re really an easy cocktail to make at home. Unlike other cocktail recipes, the measurements aren’t exact, so it’s really about experimenting to find your own favorite flavors and combinations of wine, amaro, sparkling, and citrus.

What’s your favorite spritz recipe and why?

Bitter and sour are personally my favorite tastes – the more of both the better. I love a bitter amari (Faccia Brutto Alpino or the Fred Jerbis Bitter) with a dry prosecco and a good splash of Meyer lemon, makrut lime, or even oro blanco grapefruit. I’d even go so far as to make almost a daiquiri, with equal parts liqueur and tart citrus juice, then add just a splash of prosecco to slightly cut the bitterness. If you want to make a more traditional, or mainstream spritz with Campari or another aperitivo that has a more candied bitterness, I like 1.5 ounces liqueur to 2 ounces sparkling with just a teaspoon of your fresh citrus juice of choice.

OK, you have us convinced, we can’t wait to make spritzes this weekend. Anything else you want to tell us about the spritz?

I could literally talk about amari for hours, and don’t get me started on vermouth options and the difference between aperitivo and digestivo, or which amaro to use when in the spritz. If you want to geek out with me, shoot me an email at lizr@biritemarket.com. Besides that, I hope you spritz the day away sometime soon.

 

Related Content

Strawberry, Pecan and Goat Cheese Galette with Rhubarb Compote

Sweet strawberries and tart rhubarb are a classic spring recipe combo, but the addition of creamy goat cheese and a toasted pecan crust adds a little bit of savory to mix things up.

Potato, Parsnip, and Celery Root Soup

This is a great basic recipe that will nourish your soul and body.

Any-Green Pesto

Pesto with a springtime punch.

Kitchen Tricks: Whole chicken goodness

Spring for the whole bird.