Spritz up your summer drinking: Why New Yorkers need to embrace this Italian happy hour delight

A relaxing spritzer happy hour in the backyard of Pete's Candy Store. Photo by Bridget McFadden/Brokelyn.

A relaxing spritz happy hour in the backyard of Pete’s Candy Store. Photo by Bridget McFadden/Brokelyn.

A few years ago, I had my first Aperol spritz because I was nauseous. I was out at a neighborhood cocktail bar, it was late, and I probably just should have gone home, but my worldly companion insisted on a surefire cure. He caught the bartender’s attention, pointed to me and yelled “this one has a tummy ache!” and proceeded to rattle off a list of ingredients: ice + prosecco + bitters + soda + orange slice + one fat olive. The bartender handed me the glowing tonic. With just a few sips, my stomach was soothed and the night was young again.

It turns out my friend was onto something. The spritz gets its bite from a bitter liqueur —a wine or spirit-based mixture infused with herbs and citrus — that was once primarily taken as medicine. Since discovering its powers, I’ve relied on the spritz to treat all sorts of ailments, from indigestion to humidity to apathy. So I was excited this past May when I hit up the Food Book Fair and learned that they had dedicated their Sunday night party to a charming new book about the best cocktail ever, Spritz.

Spritz the book, which came out last month, describes the origins of the iconic Italian cocktail, maps out its current territory in Northern Italy, and includes a slew of cocktail recipes to help you bring the spritz home to Brooklyn. If your post-work drinking routine needs a little refresh, you’re in luck; we’re giving away a copy! Enter your name in the comments for a chance to snag this beautiful book.

We've got a copy of this new Spritz book to give away. Photo by Bridget McFadden/Brokelyn.

We’ve got a copy of this new Spritz book to give away. Photo by Bridget McFadden/Brokelyn.

We asked Brooklyn-based author Talia Baiocchi, who co-wrote the book with Leslie Pariseau, to fill us in her own spritz life:

When did you first discover the spritz?

Leslie and I both experienced the spritz for the first time in Italy, but it wasn’t until we started seeing the Aperol Spritz and Negroni Sbagliato — and countless riffs on their bitter, bubbly, low-alcohol formula — here in the US that we started to take a harder look at the drink, its origins and how it’d become a full-on phenomenon in Europe. And further, how it was being riffed on bartenders in the U.S.

How and where do you enjoy the spritz in your everyday life?

All day, every day. It’s traditional setting is, of course, aperitivo — those golden hours wherein Italians graze on snacks and throw back a couple of rounds of spritzes before heading off to dinner. This ritual is all about a very specific state of mind — of unwinding, of switching from work to play – that the spritz has become symbol of. The spritz life, if you will, is one of perpetual unwinding. So, wherever the spritz goes, the state of mind goes. Hence: all day, every day.

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A graphic from the book.

A graphic from the book.

Reading Spritz, one can’t help but feel like Italy may well be the authority on this apres-work unwinding, and New Yorkers could learn a thing or two. As I get older and time moves faster, the hours separating one work day from the next become increasingly precious, slippery things. I no longer want to hose them down with Coors Lite at happy hour. I want to string them up between two trees and lay in them like a hammock. Elongate, suspend, but still go to happy hour.

Conjuring an Italian-style aperitivo seems like the way to go. It is, as Baiocchi and Pariseau describe, “a devil-may-care moment in the day when the Italian dream (one not unlike America’s, just with less working) seems a little more tangible.”

So what if you’re so busy chasing down your Brooklyn dream that your thirst is fierce and your wallet is light? A spritz will set you back $9-$13. Not as cheap as a Pork Slap, but worth it. Even if you’re not pulling bank right now, a spritz makes you feel like someday you might. Plus, if you’re looking for inspiration, sipping something a bit more complex could have desirable effects.

As Baiocchi writes, “In the eyes of the Italian Futurists, a drink was a temporary creation meant to evoke discussion, challenge expectations … Drinks containing sparkling wine were ‘inventive’ and meant to inspire the drinker to create, while others were thought to help the drinker resist conformity.”

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A vintage Aperol poster.

A vintage Aperol poster.

HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN SPRITZ BAR

To really get some bang for your buck, design your own golden hour. Invest in a bottle of Aperol or Campari or some other bitter liqueur, and pick out some bubbles at your neighborhood wine store. The spritz is most commonly made with prosecco, a casual sparkler that gets its effervesce from a second fermentation process in a tank. This method of fermentation is cheaper than the bottle-based process that champagne undergoes, resulting in wines that are less complex than champagne, but still delicious. A decent bottle can be had for under $20. Still white wine works, too. Round out your spritz bar with soda water, a couple of oranges and a jar of olives and you’re ready to commence aperitivo.

Ingredients:

  • Aperol OR Campari OR some other bitter liqueur – $25-35 (750 mL)
  • Prosecco – $17-$22. Check out page 41 of Spritz for a quick guide to prosecco.
  • Soda – $2
  • Orange – $1
  • Olives – $4

Total: $46 – $64 = approx. 6 drinks (You’ll have enough bitters left over for another round of 6, but you’ll need to pop another bottle of bubbles.)

Cost per drink: $7.60- $10.60

This summer, treat the magic hours that carry you from work to play with the reverie they deserve, and transform your pre-dinner hours from happy to golden.

Win a copy of the book!

Just enter your name in the comments section below; make sure to sign up for our email list too if you haven’t already (it’s worth it, we promise). We’ll pick a winner on Monday at 5pm and email you to let you know.

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