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For most of us, a spritz suggests Aunt Jan plunking ice cubes into her soda-lightened chardonnay while watching Match Game. But the spritz has a long, honorable history that's much more than caftans and key parties. Most important, it's the perfect thing to drink right now.
A traditional spritz is an Italian concoction that dates back to the 19th century. Composed of wine, a bitter liqueur (like Campari), and some bubbles, it makes for a nice aperitivo that energizes without slowing you down. As Talia Baiocchi, co-author of the upcoming book Spritz, explains, "That combination of bitter and bubbly goes back to Roman times -- it's what our bellies want when we're thinking about going out to eat."
Even better, the spritz is eminently adaptable. As more bartenders stock their shelves with Italian amari and other esoteric liqueurs, they're looking to the spritz as a formula for experimentation. Natasha David, co-owner of New York City's Nitecap, has dedicated an entire section of her whimsical cocktail menu to it. "I started drinking white-wine spritzes as a teenager with my mother," says David, "so I think I've always felt very nostalgic toward them. I've made it my goal in life to give the spritz its rightful, dignified place in cocktail culture." With creations like the sage-infused Jim Dear and Darling and the apple-bright Witching Hour, David's spritzes are dignified and delicious.
Meanwhile, at Denver's swank Cooper Lounge, bar manager Marcel Templet uses a local sparkling muscat wine to make his Milano Spritzer. Balanced with the citrus notes of Amaro Ramazzotti, it's perfect before a night out on the town. As cocktail guru Greg Best, whose new bar is coming to Atlanta's Krog Street Market this fall, puts it: "Spritzes are the natural choice for a sophisticated yet playful low-octane cocktail. Even saying the word 'spritz' is refreshing."
Two Spritzes To Liven Up Your Next Barbecue
Jim Dear and Darling
2 oz. dry white wine
1 oz. sage-infused Carpano Bianco vermouth (or any other quality white vermouth)*
1/2 oz. lemon juice
1/2 oz. honey syrup*
Fill a large wine glass with ice. Add wine, vermouth, lemon juice, and honey syrup. Stir. Top with soda to taste and garnish with a lemon wheel and an orange crescent.
*To make sage vermouth: Combine 1 bottle vermouth and about 20 sage leaves in a container and let sit for an hour. Strain, rebottle, and refrigerate. To make honey syrup: Combine 2 parts honey with 1 part water. Heat to dissolve the honey, then let cool and refrigerate.
--From Natasha David, Nitecap, New York
1 oz. Amaro Ramazzotti
3 dashes Fee Brothers Black
3 oz. Infinite Monkey Theorem Black
Muscat (or a similar sparkling moscato)
1 oz. club soda
Fill a tall Collins glass with ice. Add the amaro and bitters first, then top off with wine and soda. Lightly stir with a spoon or straw, and garnish with an orange twist.
--From Marcel Templet, the Cooper Lounge, Denver