Even though the Aperol spritz is one of the world’s all-time simplest drinks to make, a remarkable number of spritzes manage to somehow lose their way.
Sometimes it’s not fizzy enough; other times it’s a touch too sweet. Still others are victims of the understandable desire to super-size this drink and turn it into something to sip all afternoon. But, if you follow the classic recipe for the spritz and pay close attention to the ingredients, it’s easy to make a perfectly-balanced summer refresher every time.
The formula is simple and easy to remember—three parts Prosecco, two parts Aperol and one part soda. Best of all, the drink has good bones and, thanks to its solid three-two-one ratio, it’s easy to freshen it up by swapping in different bitter-sweet liqueurs. Aperol, a century-old sweet orange aperitif from Italy, has plenty of cousins, like the intense, bitter and bright red Campari and Cynar, a bittersweet artichoke sipper as well as new products, such as Martini Fiero, a bitter vermouth-based aperitivo, and a new, Canadian-made, non-alcoholic option, Novara.
Ready? Three, Two, One…Go!
Spritz Veneziano (a.k.a. the Aperol spritz recipe)
Originally known as the Spritz Veneziano, this drink has dominated patio table-tops for nearly a decade. Here’s the classic recipe, with a few explainers outlining the most common mis-steps and pitfalls:
- 3 oz well-chilled Santa Margherita Brut Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore*
- 2 oz Aperol
- 1 oz well-chilled soda water**
- 1 orange half-wheel for garnish
Choose a small, white wine glass or a large rocks glass and partially fill with four or five ice cubes. Build by pouring in Aperol, prosecco and top with soda. Garnish with orange.
*It doesn’t have to be this brand. However, choosing the right prosecco is key. To that end, here are three things to keep in mind:
Frizzante versus Spumante: A lot of bubbly wine from Italy is made in the “frizzante” style, which means “gently fizzy.” If you want a robust, more champagne-like bubble (which is generally preferable for cocktails like the spritz), look for “spumante” on the label.
Superiore: If the label doesn’t specify “frizzante” or “spumante,” look for the word “superiore,” a category of Prosecco made in specific regions that’s always an extra-fizzy spumante.
Brut, Extra Dry, Dry and Demi-Sec: To speak in broad strokes, a lot of prosecco is a little on the sweet side. Choose “Brut” or “Extra Dry” for the Spritz, since Aperol contains a lot of sugar. It doesn’t take much to throw it off balance.
**Soda water is nearly always preferable to mineral water when it comes to cocktails. It’s all about the carbonation, which you want as much as possible of in a Spritz (and most cocktails), because the (slight) acidity of carbonated water helps balance out sweet flavours. SodaStream is kinda great, because you can control the strength of the bubbles, but basic Canada Dry and Schweppes (in cans) are perfectly fine. Two-litre bottles are a false economy—they go flat too quickly.
Both Santa Margherita Brut Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore and Aperol are available in all provinces across Canada, either through private liquor stores or provincial monopolies.
The five basic rules of the spritz: a summary
What did we learn with this Spritz recipe? We can sum it up with these five rules:
- Less is more. Use a smaller glass. Or, if you love a big wine glass, go ahead, but resist the urge to top with soda water or over-fill with ice, since both can drown out the delicate flavour and throw off the balance.
- The 3-2-1- formula (three parts bubbly wine; two parts bitter-sweet aperitivo; one part fizzy water) is the golden ratio for this drink. It can be applied to nearly all spritzes.
- The bubbles matter.
- Chill all the bubbly ingredients before using, so that the ice doesn’t melt quickly and water the drink down.
- Aperol and other Italian aperitivos, which are bittersweet low-alcohol spirits that are meant to be enjoyed before dinner, ideally with appetizers, may taste bitter, but they are sweeter than most people realize, so cut back on the sugar by using a dry sparkling wine to keep the drink balanced.
The best thing about these rules is that they work for a lot of similar spirits. Want to swap in a different base of aperitivo? Just do it. Prefer a grapefruit or lemon wedge? No problem. Want to use a Canadian wine instead of an import? Just keep it dry. Want to make a low- or no-alcohol version? We’ve got you covered.
Fiero Spritz Recipe
Made with a vermouth base instead of a spirit, Martini Fiero is a new offering in the aperitivo category that contains less sugar and is a little more bright, complex and citrussy than Aperol. That’s good, from our point of view. You could use an orange, but it really shines with lemon.
3 oz chilled Jackson Triggs Sparkling Reserve VQA (or other dry Canadian sparkler)
2 oz Martini Fiero
1 oz chilled soda water
1 lemon wheel or wedge for garnish
Martini Fiero is a new product to Canada and, so far, is only available at the LCBO and SAQ—prices vary between $22.45 and $27.95. Jackson Triggs Reserve is available at BCLiquor, an the LCBO in the $15-$17 range.
Even though bartenders and drinks writers have championed Cynar for years, this bitter-sweet spirit made from artichokes (yes, really) is still under the radar. It blends perfectly with a pink cava, such as the new Segura Viudas Brut Rosé.
- 3 oz chilled Segura Viudas Brut Rosé D.O. Cava (or other dry pink cava)
- 2 oz Cynar
- 1 oz chilled soda water
- 1 twist pink grapefruit
Cynar is available at private liquor stores in B.C., Alberta and Nova Scotia, as well as Manitoba Liquor Mart, the LCBO and SAQ—prices vary between $23.95 and $34.65 for a 1-litre bottle. Segura Viudas Brut Rosé D.O. Cava is available at private liquor stores in Alberta and B.C., as well as BCLiquor and the LCBO—prices vary between $15.95 and $16.99.
Named after the town in which Campari was invented, Novara is a fascinating Canadian product—the first non-alcoholic aperitivo we’ve had the chance to try. It’s bitter and tastes a little like baking spice, with a hint of vinegary sour. Mix it with Grüvi’s (a new company that makes great alcohol-free beer and wine) non-alcoholic “prosecco” for an alcohol-free spritzer.
- 3 oz chilled Grüvi Non-Alcoholic Bubbly Rosé
- 2 oz Novara
- 1 oz chilled soda water
- 1 lime half-wheel