A symbol of ’70s and ’80s suburban culture, wine spritzers have a rich history. As Talia Baiocchi and Leslie Pariseau note in their 2016 book, Spritz, some believe the spritzer started as a way for beer-loving Austro-Hungarian soldiers based in the northeast of Italy to dilute the region’s wine with a “spritz” of still water, a term derived from the German spritzen, meaning “to spray.”
“[But it] doesn’t really become the modern spritz until it gains its now inseparable sparkle,” they wrote.
The easy-drinking wine spritzer as we now largely know it really began in the early 1800s, when soda siphons that dispensed seltzer were developed. Italians soon added their native wine-based aperitifs and bitter liqueurs to the mix as well, leading to drinks like the iconic Aperol Spritz.
Today, bartenders are modernizing spritzers and spritzes as demand grows for sessionable, low-alcohol drinks. Wine, whether still, sparkling or fortified, remains at the heart of the mix, but from there, anything goes.
“Spritzes are amazing—you can put almost anything in there,” says Natalie Grindstaff, director of restaurants for Crafted Hospitality, owned by Tom Colicchio, which includes restaurants such as the Italian-oriented Vallata in New York City.
To customize your own version, Grindstaff recommends tinkering with the various components to see what you enjoy. For example, her Brooklyn Spritz subs in grapefruit soda as a flavorful alternative to plain soda water, but anything from coconut LaCroix to ginger beer can add effervescence.
From there, think about small additions like vermouth or aperitif wines, liqueurs or syrups, or a squeeze of citrus or dashes of aromatic bitters to add complexity.
“The riffs are endless,” says Grindstaff. “But it’s an easy and forgiving drink, which makes it one of the best at-home drinks to make.”
This article originally appeared in the May 2022 issue of Wine Enthusiast magazine. Click here to subscribe today!