Summer is in full swing and we are all up in our summer cocktails. Boozy slushies, porch pounders, anything with bubbles, just give it to me cold! This summer I ordered a Spritz cookbook that has been a fun way to add some variety to summer cocktails with ingredients I already have on my bar. According to Difford’s Guide, the Spritz originated in the north of Italy in Venice at the end of the 19th century when Venice was still a part of the Austrian Empire. Soldiers stationed there drank the local wines, but added a “Spritz” (German for splash) to the wine to get it to the desired alcohol content similar to the beer they were used to drinking. The Spritz was born using equal parts white wine and soda water.
In Veneto (northeastern region of Italy where Venice is located), the Spritz Al Bitter was born by adding a bitter liqueur in a ratio of 3:2:1- 3 parts Prosecco, 2 parts bitter liqueur, 1 part soda water. The most common is Campari or Aperol. This easy ratio lends itself to improvisation if you have a few Amari, or bitter liqueur on your bar.
The authors of Spritz: Italy’s Most Iconic Aperitivo Cocktail , Talia Baiocchi and Leslie Pariseau, have a take on this cocktail with which I was instantly smitten.
“The Italian word sprezzatura doesn’t have an English translation. Coined in the early 16th century by Renaissance author Baldassare Castiglione in his book Book of the Courtier, sprezzatura implied the sort of effortless grace that royal attendants of that gilded era embodied. For Castiglione, sprezzatura was a definitive pillar of true art- to work so hard at something that its beauty, to the beholder, appeared easy, agile, blithe. It was, in essence, the art of concealing art’s design.
Although the spritz and sprezzatura are not officially related, it’s this I-woke-up-like-this mix of beauty and ease that perhaps best describes this drink.”
Understated elegance in a glass? Yes, please. When my husband and I were in Italy pre-pandemic, we drank our way through the country one spritz at a time. We had one particularly magical evening in Rome where we did a “progressive evening” of a cocktail and a nosh at the best hotel rooftops we could find. On a whim, and what can only be explained as the dumb luck we had for the entire trip, we ended the evening at the Hotel Eden’s Michelin Star restaurant, La Terrazza. No reservations, no idea what to expect, just a recommendation from our Airbnb host. What we did have were stunning views of Rome from the roof top restaurant with windows that disappeared as the sun was setting. That was only improved upon by the sublime food and cocktails.
This spritz came to me and was all of the things in a glass. I had forgotten about that cocktail until I started reading the cook book and decided to recreate that summer-in-a-glass flavor. They called it a Hugo Spritz. I call it Nirvana. The splash of Honey Lavender Elixir softens the gin and brightens the Cynar. As always, we love to see what you are drinking! Happy summer, friends. Saluti!
3 oz Prosecco
1.5 oz Cynar
1.5 oz Gin
Splash Honey Lavender Elixir
1 oz Seltzer or Lemon Seltzer
Fresh mint and lemon wheel for garnish
Build in a large wine goblet with lots of ice.