Some families take annual ski trips together. Others get matching theme park T-shirts. My family’s favorite vacation tradition involves finding a good new summer drink. In recent years we’ve venerated such fine cocktails as the Negroni and the French 75.
Trouble is, while tasty, these tipples can pack more of a punch than you might want during a midday dip in the Gulf. Indeed, during our sodden season with the French 75, a family friend accused me of trying to kill him with this admittedly dangerous drink, so named after the French World War I artillery gun.
Thankfully, we’ll be celebrating this summer with the Spritz, a wine-based cocktail from Italy’s Veneto region that’s typically served as an apéritif.
Far less boozy than typical cocktails and more refreshing, spritzes are pretty much ideal hot weather drinks. My family just got back from a spring break trip to Venice, where this drink originated while the city was part of the Austrian Empire (hence the Teutonic origins of its name). I tried a number of variations while there (ok, yes, I was basically bar-hopping).
The most common versions are made with Prosecco or white wine, a splash of a bitter liqueur such as Aperol, Campari, Cynar or Select, then topped off with sparking mineral water. Curiously, most of those I had in Venice were served in wine glasses, instead of lowballs.
Which liqueur you use is purely personal choice. Aperol will give you the sweetest taste. I prefer the slightly bitterer Campari, which also gives the drink a festive red hue. Similar is Select, from Venice, though this may be hard to find locally. Go with Cynar, a liqueur made from herbs and artichokes, if you trend toward bitter. Below is my favorite recipe for a Spritz. And since I’m sure that by mid-summer someone in my family will wonder why we don’t make French 75s anymore, that recipe is included as well.
In an ice-filled glass combine wine, liqueur, and top with sparkling water. Garnish with lemon slice and green olive. I like to eat the olive because of the way its brininess contrasts with the bitter and sweet of the other ingredients.
In shaker combine all ingredients except for the Champagne. Top with ice cubes and shake vigorously. Strain into Champagne flute. Top with champagne very gently, so it doesn’t cause the drink to foam up and overflow the glass.
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