There is an episode on the Simpsons, back from when the show used to be funny, that summarises everything we though we knew about spritzer cocktails: Homer takes Ned Flanders to Las Vegas and while the first holds on to what seems to be a strong and alcohol-heavy Tiki drink (little umbrella and funky container), the second hesitates: “I’ll have a Shirley… No, a virgin… No, a children’s… Oh, what the heck? You only live once. Give me a white wine spritzer!”, he says, and so, the famous goody two shoes indulges in actual booze.
His choice is, however, the plainest and most basic version: just a mix of club soda and white wine. Spritzers can be a wonderful thing in the right hands and during the summer, they are simply ideal refreshments to sip as you while away a long, balmy evening.
The summer of 2017 might as well be nicknamed the Summer of the Spritzer, as the old-school and utterly simple drink is more fashionable than ever and far from being seen as somebody’s boring neighbour tipple of choice, it’s the drink to order if you want to experiment with different flavours, enjoy creative and delicate combinations or simply have more than one without top billing in the calories and alcoholic intake departments.
Where to Drink Spritzers Done Well
All over Dublin, bars, restaurants and hotels are catching up with New York, London and Berlin, cities in which the spritzer craze is already at its peak. Some of the venues that have taken note of the trend and upped their spritzer game include The Shelbourne Hotel, 37 Dawson Street, The Westbury Hotel (and Balfes within it) and No 5 Vinoteca. These are among the venues that feature new spritzer menus crafted by experts from Belsazar, a German Vermouth brand created in 2013 which has positioned itself as one of the new-wave aperitif pushing the revival of the spritzer.
— Dalcassian (@Dalcassian2015) June 9, 2017
On a more old-school note but equally trendy, there are two Italian amari making the rounds as they’re discovered and rediscovered: Aperol and Campari. The first is usually found mixed with Prosecco in the globally famous Aperol Spritzer, while the second often shines in Campari Soda (it’s also a key drop in the Negroni cocktail, but as that one is not a spritzer, we shall share one at some other time).
Aperol is lower in alcohol and slightly less bitter than Campari, and both share an intense bright red hue that makes drinks including them very eye-catching, the sort of glass that makes you say “I’ll have one of those” when the waiter passes you by with one.
You’ll find them frequently and unsurprisingly in venues of Italian inspiration and places with a nostalgic sensibility. Some of our favourite places to sip amari in Dublin include Bagots Hutton, Bellucci’s, Pacino’s, Il Fornaio, Coppinger Row and The Bailey.
Creative bartenders are also coming up with their own spritzers and among those worth savouring in town you’ll find Lemuel’s Beer & Loathing (Aperol, grapefruit and lemon juice, honey syrup, grapefruit bitters, topped with Irish pilsener) and The Blind Pig’s Apple Spritz (Longueville Manor apple brandy, sour apple liqueur, fresh lemon juice, sugar syrup, topped with Irish cider).
And while technically not a spritzer, another light and summery cocktail that has been rescued from an episode of Downton Abbey is the Sherry Cobbler, a mix of Amontillado Sherry, sugar and citrus with loads of crushed ice. Sip it at Lemuel’s, Zozimus and Vintage Cocktail Club.
Since they’re so easy to make, why not mix them at home? You’ll rule at hosting with minimum effort. In order to help you serve the drinks of the season, we have prepared a guide with six tried and loved bottles and a serving suggestion for each (but feel free to experiment!) so make them quickly, drink them slowly and enjoy yourself!
WHITE PORT & TONIC
This less famous and less boozy variation of the ubiquitous G&T is absolutely refreshing. Simply combine one shot of white Port with plenty of ice cubes and tonic water to taste and garnish with a wedge of lemon or lemon peel.
For this we like Royal Oporto White Port (19% ABV – Available at O’Briens Wine at €21.95). This white Port is rich and complex, a nutty and honeyed fortified wine which has the strength to offer a flavourful base for summery mixed drinks.
The name is the recipe in this absurdly easy to make spritzer. Campari (28% ABV – Available at Celtic Whiskey Shop at €26.99) is a bitter aperitif that combines orange and citrus peel with a unique mix of herbs and bitter roots.
To make it, simply pour a shot of Campari into a glass filled with ice cubes and top with soda water. Garnish with a slice of lime or orange.
MARTINI BIANCO SPRITZER
You’ve probably seen this bottle before, and if you haven’t done so in the past, grab one next time you see it on a shelf and experiment. Martini Bianco (15% ABV – Available at O’Briens Wine at €9.95 on offer from €12.40) is made out of Italian white wine blended with aromatic herbs and a touch of sweetness and offers an off-dry and mild-flavoured base for delicate spritzers.
Bring it to life by creating a low-key Mojito-like spritzer with fizzy club soda, a bit of lime, plenty of ice and fresh mint to taste.
Evoke the flavours of a tropical escape with this unusual fizzy refreshment. Malibu (21% ABV – Widely available nationwide from €21) is a rum-based coconut flavoured liquor often used in Tiki cocktails and sweet, dessert-like drinks. However, it shows its light side on a spritzer and it’s a great option for those who are not very convinced by the bitter kick of the Italian house of spritlosophy.
Combine it with lemon flavoured sparkling water (or add lemon juice to taste to plain sparkling water), ice and pineapple syrup to taste (the one from tinned pineapples works perfectly).
Another Italian winner for this season, this is a less bitter, boozier spritzer. Aperol (11% ABV – Available at Celtic Whiskey Shop at €21.99) combines citrus, rhubarb and herbs into a deep flavoured aperitif with a characteristic glossy red hue.
Their famous recipe is as easy as 3 (parts of Prosecco), 2 (parts of Aperol), 1 (splash of soda). Catchy, isn’t it? Finish with ice and a slice of orange.
BELSAZAR & TONIC
Described as “dry as a Berlin summer”, this herbal vermouth offers an off-beat character of aniseed, chamomile and orange peel that blends beautifully with tonic water. Belsazar Dry (19% ABV – Available at Mulligans on Claredon Street).
Mix with tonic water and ice in a tall glass. Highlight its delicate floral and herbal notes and make an aesthetically pleasing drink with the help of edible lavender and contrasting lemon peel.
Gabriela’s passion for writing is only matched by her love for food and wine. Journalist, confectioner and sommelier, she fell in love with Ireland years ago and moved from Venezuela to Dublin in 2014.
Since then, she has written about and worked in the local food scene, and she’s determined to discover and share the different traditions, flavours and places that have led Irish food and drink to fascinate her.