Spritz like an Italian: wine cocktails are a sparkling summer companion

John Wilson: With a little imagination it is possible to create any number of colourful, creative cocktails

A spritz is always a good thing, but when the sun is out, it becomes almost compulsory. The word “spritz” is believed to have been invented in the 19th century, when Austrian soldiers based in Veneto would dilute their wine with a little sparkling water. Since then, the spritz has been taken to heart by the Venetians for whom it is the favourite aperitivo. Aperol has been trending for some time now, but this is not the only spritz. With a little imagination it is possible to create any number of alternative cocktails.

The basic recipe is usually 3-2-1: three parts prosecco, two parts bitter bittersweet liqueur, and one of sparkling water. However, treat this as an opportunity to get creative. If you find prosecco a little too sweet, change to a crémant from France or cava from Spain, or use a still white wine known as Veneziano. Lighten up your spritz by adding more sparkling water, or substitute any number of liqueurs or bitters for Aperol. If you prefer a drier style, try Campari, Select or Cynar. Remember that Campari has an ABV of 24 per cent compared with 11 per cent for Aperol. A plain Campari with sparkling water is good, and even better with tonic water. A bicicletta is Campari, still white wine, sparkling water and orange, while a negroni sbagliatto swaps prosecco for gin, making a more refreshing drink.

If you like lemon flavours, a limoncello (Capri) spritz can be very refreshing, or if you want to go French, try Lillet Blanc. A Hugo is a light floral north Italian spritz made using elderflower cordial, prosecco and sparkling water, garnished with mint and lime.

There is a host of other bitters. Feel free to try out other liqueurs, vermouths and flavoured spirits. A slice of orange is traditional (and very Insta-friendly) but lemon, lime or even olives are possibilities, and muddled herbs can add a fresh touch.


The bitters and vermouth featured here are available in supermarkets and off-licences.

Lillet Blanc

17%, €26.50-€27

Exotic fruits, herbs and dried orange peel with a honeyed note. Use it in a spritz, or in a Vesper Martini.


24%, €25

The classic bitters, a key ingredient in a host of cocktails. Bitter herbs and citrus. Try it simply with sparkling water or add some prosecco for a less sweet spritz.

St Germain Dillons

20%, €34.50

Summery elderflower aromas and flavours. Add in a few slices of lime and some mint leaves to prosecco and sparkling water to create a Hugo Spritz.

Luxardo Limoncello

27%, €26

Fresh with intense lemon aromas and fruit. Serve well chilled in your spritz.