As bartenders, we try not to judge your drink order. Most of us are not of the snooty, wax-moustache and suspender sort, who look down on our customers like clerks at a record store that just sells vinyl. But the fact still remains that certain drinks are more appropriate at certain times of day, or year. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen young, inexperienced drinkers putting down Old Fashioneds and Manhattans in the early afternoon this summer. Their bloodshot eyes at four o’clock in the afternoon should tell them they’re doing something wrong, but they never seem to learn. Kids these days.
There most certainly is a better way. I’ve always been a fan of the way Europeans do day drinking. In cafes across the pond, cafes routinely serve light, refreshing, low-proof cocktails in the afternoon. These bubbly, often slightly effervescent concoctions, or spritzes, take the edge off of a long day and prepare the stomach for dinner.
The word spritz comes from the German word for splash. Legend has it that German soldiers during the Hapsburg occupation of Venice would order their wine—a stronger local varietal than they were previously accustomed to—with a splash, or spritz, of water. The wider availability of artificial carbonation at the end of the 19th century helped change the spritz into the light, fizzy drink it is today.
There is no real recipe for the spritz. Sure, there’s the White Wine Cooler we’ve discussed before, but a spritz, or spritzer, is a very loosely defined drink. And while the Germans reached for wine when first creating the drink, I find myself preferring the classic Italian take: The Aperol Spritz. Aperol is, like so many European aperitifs and digestifs, a closely guarded secret formula. But the company will let us know that the main flavors in Aperol are sweet and bitter oranges, and rhubarb. Beyond that, it’s anyone’s best guess; just think of it as a much milder version of Campari, Aperol’s more bitter and astringent cousin.
The Aperol company suggests an easy-to-remember formula of 3-2-1: Three parts prosecco, two parts Aperol, and one part soda water. But this recipe is a little aggressive, both in flavor and in alcohol content, for my tastes, and so I’ve dialed in the proportions here to something I find a little more refreshing and palatable to the general public on these long, hot summer afternoons. No judgements here.
2 oz. Aperol
1 ½ oz. chilled prosecco
1 ½ oz. chilled soda water
Combine all ingredients in a tall glass or wine glass with ice. Garnish with an orange slice.