Blending German and French Influences Into Our Spritzes

PHOTO BY JESSICA BRYCE YOUNG
Photo by Jessica Bryce Young

While “spritz” is a generic name for a type of cocktail – a bitter aperitif plus wine plus carbonation – the Aperol Spritz has come to own the title. The coral-colored, fizzy blend of prosecco (Italian sparkling wine) with Aperol (a less-alcoholic, not-as-bitter version of Campari) became widely popular around World War II, and to this day remains one of the most popular summer-afternoon sippers of choice. It’s got a lot to recommend it: Aperol is only 11 percent ABV, and prosecco is usually about the same, so you’re not going to get unexpectedly wasted on these – besides which, carbonation and ice are always pleasant on a hot day.

One might wonder why a German word is used for a 100 percent Italian drink, though. Well: “Spritz” means “spray” in German, and the name comes from the 19th-century Austro-Hungarian practice of adding a splash of water to Italian wines (which were too strong for the refined German palate, apparently).

It made me think that we ought to do an actually German spritz, sao I tried mixing together some Underberg, the Jägermeister-like German digestif, with some sekt (German sparkling wine). Authentic as hell, and possibly pleasing to some tastes, but not for me, thanks – it was way too sweet. And a Spanish version could conceivably be mixed from cava and a dry sherry, though I didn't try that – my favorite summer drink is still rosé, which is just now widely hitting wine shops for the season, so I decided to go French with this Remix.

There are sparkling rosés, but I didn’t have one on hand (and I don’t really like most of them), so for carbonation I just added a splash of sparkling mineral water – Perrier to stay in the French theme, bien sûr. For my bitter aperitif, I chose Dubonnet Rouge. Dubonnet, a French wine-based liqueur, gets an unfairly lame rep, I think (though, admittedly, it is the favorite tipple of both Queen Elizabeth and her mother). It’s got the quinine bitterness of Campari with a much lower percentage of alcohol by volume, and if you’re a regular reader, you know by now how much I appreciate a low ABV.

Spritzes – should we call this French version an atomisé, or perhaps a plouf? – are usually served in a large wine glass with a citrus garnish and a straw, but this is a cocktail largely without rules. It’s as relaxed as a day by the pool, so don’t sweat the details.

Classic
2 parts Aperol 
3 parts prosecco
Ice 
Lemon wheel 

Pour the Aperol into a wine glass two-thirds filled with ice, then top with prosecco. Garnish with lemon wheel and black straw.

Remixed
2 parts Dubonnet Rouge 
Lemon 
4 parts dry rosé 
1 part Perrier
Ice

Pour all ingredients over ice in a wine glass or tumbler; swirl to combine (and adjust proportions to taste). Garnish with a lemon slice.

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