When you think of a spritz, Aperol is likely one of the first variations to come to mind. The Italian cocktail has long been a hit with Australian drinkers for its combination of refreshing citrus liqueur and fruity Prosecco — especially during the summer months. There’s no doubt Aperol kickstarted the spritz wave, but there are plenty of other versions of the format.
To find out which spritzes are ready to have their time in the sun, Hospitality
speaks with Odd Culture’s Jordan Blackman, Her Bar’s Tom Younger, and Fú
Cocktail and Wine Bar’s Geoffrey Hunt.
Sydney’s Odd Culture is known for its obsession with all things fermented,
so naturally, the venue’s drinks are a showcase of fermentation from wild
ales and natural wines to cocktails. “Fermentation is the perfect way to add
layers of complexity and depth to drinks,” says Beverage Manager Jordan Blackman. “Our menu is inspired by it and there is a focus on in-house ferments and ingredients, everything from homemade tepache to olive shio koji and coffee shoyu using spent grounds.”
The tepache Blackman mentions is the core ingredient in Odd Culture’s house spritz cocktail. “Originating from Mexico, tepache is essentially a fermented
pineapple soda or ‘pineapple beer’ that’s seasoned, spiced, and brewed over a few days,” he says. “Quite low in alcohol, it’s ultimately refreshing and particularly
appealing in warmer weather.”
To make tepache, pineapple (with its skin on) is fermented with a combination
of sugar, salt, cinnamon quills, cloves, and water. “The key to a healthy ferment is
attracting good bacteria and staving off the bad by ensuring the ferment container is properly sanitised as well as your hands,” says Blackman. “It is also crucial the percentage of salt to total weight of the batched ferment is 2 per cent.”
Once the tepache is ready, the bar team combines tequila (Olmeca Altos Plata, in
this case), agave syrup, and lime juice in a wine glass filled with ice. “Our drink utilises a homemade tepache as the base for the spritz rather than Prosecco or soda with the additions of tequila alongside fresh lime and agave for balance,” says Blackman.
The beverage manager says the spritz is an approachable entry point for fermented beverages for guests. “It’s a great way to introduce people to the
concept of fermentation in a familiar package as most people have had a spritz
before,” he says. The Tepache also works well as an alternate option when the
tequila is omitted, and is comparable to a pineapple soda. “It’s refreshing and fun
while still displaying levels of depth and complexity achieved through what is a
very simple ferment.”
The Tepache spritz has been a popular choice on Odd Culture Newtown’s cocktail
list, so much so, the Melbourne location has added it to the menu, too. “[It’s been]
extremely popular. Being both a spritz and an agave-based cocktail, it has serious appeal with our guests,” says Blackman. “The drink has been on our list since day one and doesn’t appear to be going anywhere. It’s the big ticket coming into summer.”
When it comes to spritzes in general, Blackman believes they work well on a cocktail list as a versatile yet approachable option for guests. “The spritz is
a proven winning formula. It’s easily one of the most universally recognised
cocktails, is particularly malleable, and can be as simple or complex as one
might like,” he says. “It can function as an aperitif before dinner or the drink of choice over an entire afternoon.”
Italian bartender Roland Gruber has been attributed as the creator of the Hugo spritz. Funnily enough, it was born from a desire to create a variation on a spritz instead of the go-to Aperol or Veneziano. The Hugo was first made in the early 2000s, and has finally resonated with Australian drinkers for the same reason it was created.
“The Hugo spritz definitely seems to be having a (well-deserved) moment,” says Owner and Operator of Adelaide’s Fú Cocktail and Wine Bar Geoffrey Hunt. “Going into what looks like a long, hot, dry summer, there’s nothing better than a refreshing spritz.”
At Fú, Hunt and the team stick to the classic recipe for the Hugo minus the mint element. “Typically, you’d add the mint directly to the glass, but it can be a bit messy, so we muddle it separately first,” he says. Hunt combines elderflower liqueur (his brand of choice is Massenez but admits St-Germain is the original) and the mint in a cocktail shaker and muddles it lightly to release the aromatics. It’s then strained into a wine glass with ice and topped with Prosecco and soda. The bar team finish the drink with a garnish of edible flowers.
“The way the floral prettiness of the elderflower liqueur plays with the summery herbal aromatics of the mint is just undeniably appealing,” says Hunt. Since putting it on the menu, the drink has been a popular order for guests not only for its taste but the price point. “It’s easy and quick and relatively inexpensive — so many cocktails are prohibitively priced for a lot of consumers these days,” says Hunt. “To be able to get a phenomenal drink and not feel guilty about ordering more than one makes for a tempting proposition.”
Spritzes play an important role on a cocktail menu to provide a refreshing, approachable, cheaper, and most importantly lower-alcohol option for guests. “For too long, consumers who chose not to drink a lot have been left with sub-par options,” says Hunt. “Having delicious no- and low-alcohol options (spritzes almost always fall into the low side of the spectrum) allows bartenders to cater to those who choose to be circumspect in their drinking.”
Her Bar Cocktail Curator Tom Younger has recently added a Sbagliato spritz to the
Melbourne venue’s offering, which he describes as “the spritz of the moment”. The cocktail is inspired by the Negroni Sbagliato which translates to ‘broken’ Negroni where the gin is replaced with Prosecco. The Sbagliato spritz consists of Imperial Distilling’s Ruby Bitter (akin to Amaro), Oscar 697 sweet vermouth, and Prosecco.
“All in all, it’s the perfect combination of sweet, bitter, and fizz,” explains Younger. “The aperitif has punch from the Ruby Bitter with its grapefruit and rhubarb,
and a sharp, bitter undertone from the gentian and ginseng. It is balanced with the Oscar 697 — a sweet vermouth that also contains rhubarb but in a much sweeter, fruity style.”
To make the spritz, Ruby Bitter, Oscar 697, and Prosecco (Younger suggests a drier style) are combined in a wine glass with ice and finished with a slice of fresh orange. “I like the rhubarb tones that come through both the aperitif and the vermouth,” says Younger. “Each have their own unique expression of the same ingredient, so they’re similar but not too similar, so they pair really well together.”
Younger has crafted a dedicated spritz menu at Her Bar, with the Sbagliato described as more of an aperitivo compared to the other options on the list. “With a natural fruitiness from the aperitif and vermouth, plus the brightness from the acidity of the Prosecco, it’s more bitter and savoury than some of the others on the list,” says the bartender. “It’s been really well received. Our bartenders tend
to have some fun introducing it to guests and more often than not they order a second or third.”
Similarly to Blackman, Younger agrees the versatile format of spritzes make them
an important part of any cocktail program. “Spritzes are a perfect drink that can easily be enjoyed at any time of day or night — more often in summer, but at any time of year really,” he says. “They’re accessible, easy to incorporate a range of flavours into, and suit every palate. Bring on spritz season!”
It’s safe to say the love affair between the drinking public and the spritz is enduring, but as these drinks specialists have shared, there are plenty of ways to keep your options fresh and unique.