Spritz 2.0: There are a thousand different ways to spin a spritz

Photography by Christopher Pearce.

Story by Cara Devine. Cara is our Melbourne-based drinks writer. She is the manager of Bomba in Melbourne and the face and talent behind the cocktailing youtube channel Behind the Bar and the author of Strong, Sweet & Bitter. You can email her at behindthebarchannel@gmail.com

The marketing moguls may say that sex sells, but bartenders know the real magic word is ‘spritz’. Slap it on your menu and you have an instant bestseller. Which leads us to an interesting question – what defines a spritz?

The word comes from the Austro-Hungarian habit of adding a splash, or ‘spritz’, of water to Italian wines that they found too strong for their delicate palates – more akin to what we would call a ‘spritzer’. The modern spritz evolved from this, transitioning from still to sparkling wine and adding a spike of bittersweet amaro to build body and complexity, turning a simple mixed drink into a bona fide cocktail. Of course, the spritz has become synonymous with one brand, Aperol, but many other bitters (both local and international) throw their hat in the ring for a slice of the lucrative spritz market.

As is the bartending way, the innovation hasn’t stopped there. Assorted bases, seasonal ingredients, varied bubble-bringers and creative garnishes are deployed to slake the insatiable thirst for all things spritzy. This may blur the line between spritzes, highballs, collins-es et al but who doesn’t love a mash-up? According to Talia Baiocchi and Leslie Pariseau in their seminal spritz screed, ‘Spritz: Italy’s Most Iconic Aperitivo Cocktail’, the defining features of this drink are that it must be effervescent, low in alcohol and designed as a pre-dinner drink (they suggest bitterness to ‘open the stomach for a meal’, but anything aiming to whet the appetite would pass the test).


“Assorted bases, seasonal ingredients, varied bubble-bringers and creative garnishes are deployed to slake the insatiable thirst for all things spritzy.”

A perfect example of this is the only spritz I ever physically crave, the Olive Spritz at Gerald’s Bar in Melbourne. Created by Gabriel De Melo Freire, a flavour fanatic, the saltiness of the olive syrup and the dryness of the apera leave you literally salivating.

The Spritz tome, penned by Leslie Pariseau and Talia Baiocchi features a fresh spring take on the spritz that was made in honour of Venice’s Festa della Sensa. The drink, the Sensa Spritz is meant to evoke the local lagoon waters and is cool, dry and bitter featuring Salers, a French aperitif, a dry vermouth and cucumber. Conversely, whisky might not be the first thing to come to mind when you think of aperitivo but the juicy orchard fruit notes of Glenfiddich 12 combined with apple juice and a dash of bitters creates a brilliant palate cleanser in our last spritz recipe.

Of course, the possibilities are endless. The proliferation of high-quality mixers has opened up a world of potential, including genuinely intriguing non-alcoholic options. The popularity of the category has also made its way into the booming premix sector – those looking for a shortcut can fill their coolers with bottles of the perennial favourite Aperol Spritz, or tinnies of local heroes Bizarro or Maidenii. Bars and restaurants can even lean on the expertise of bartending behemoths through Worksmith’s collaborations on Homegrown, large-format bottled spritzes of the highest quality and deliciousness designed to ease pressure on busy venues by being a ‘pop and pour’ option (although they also make a great sharing alternative to bring along to your next barbeque or park hang instead of beer or wine).

So, whether you’re feeling fired up with creativity or, quite frankly, lazy, there’s a spritz for you. It’s the perfect summer refreshment, and who doesn’t love anything that’s socially acceptable to drink while the sun is still high in the sky?

Olive Spritz
Gabriel De Melo Freire, Gerald’s Bar
45ml Pennyweight ‘Woody’s’ Amontillado
15ml olive syrup*
70ml dry sparkling wine
Dash soda
Glass: wine glass
Garnish: olive and lemon slice
Method: add all of your ingredients to the glass and add lots of ice. Stir and garnish.
*Buy good quality green olives (Gerald’s suggest Zucatto ‘Belle di Cerignola’ olives). Strain and bring brine to the boil. Add an equal measure of caster sugar (by weight) and stir until clear.

Glenfiddich Spritz
45ml Glenfiddich 12yo
30ml cloudy apple juice
15ml lemon juice
10ml sugar syrup
Dash angostura bitters
Top soda
Garnish: Sliced apple
Method: add all of your ingredients to the glass and add lots of ice. Stir and garnish

Sensa Spritz
Pinch sea salt
15ml sugar syrup
2 cucumber slices
20ml Salers French Aperitif
20ml Dry vermouth
15ml lime juice
Top with soda
Muddle salt, sugar syrup and cucumber. Add Salers, Vermouth and lime. Shake. Strain into Collins glass with ice. Tope with soda. Garnish with cucumber.
Adapted from Spritz: Italy’s Most Iconic Aperitivo Cocktail by Leslie Pariseau and Talia Baiocchi