When you think of a spritz, a few things may come to mind: sunshine, umbrellas on the Amalfi coast, even Aperol. Made with three components — equal parts digestive bitters and bubbly (usually Prosecco) and topped with a splash of club soda — a spritz is the quintessential summer sipper. But a change in the season doesn’t mean you have to give up the effervescent aperitif. With a few easy swaps and some seasonal touches, a spritz can be transformed from Amalfi to après-ski.
“For me, when I think of winter-flavored drinks, I think about spices like cinnamon and clove, apples and deeply flavored amari,” says Joe Coleman, owner of Doublespeak NY, a craft cocktail catering company. “For summer drinks, I think about lighter, brighter and more refreshing flavors, citrusy and bubbly. But I feel a spritz is a great anytime cocktail because when I’m having one, it’s usually because I want something a little lower ABV — so don’t write it off as only being a summer party cocktail.”
Seasonal flavors are the perfect place to start when thinking about building a cool-weather cocktail, and a spritz is no exception. Coleman recommends building the flavor profile of your drink by starting with flavors that remind you of the season. For him, these flavors are cranberry and pomegranate syrup. Another trick? Swapping the traditional Prosecco for a sweeter base wine. “Wine can be an extremely fun and unique ingredient,” he says. “Have fun with the wines and even try to choose flavors that remind you of winter events and the holiday season. Ask your local vineyards about their wines and their tasting notes for more ideas.”
Helen Cruz, general manager of Southold Social, says she likes to play with the flavors of pear, apple, grapefruit, cranberry, and orange when it comes to developing a winterized spritz. But she also notes that there’s a place for the traditional Aperol in a winter-themed sipper. If you swap out the Prosecco for Lambrusco or another sparkling red — like Sparkling Pointe’s Carnaval Rouge — you’ll get a deeper, more tannic-style drink that will evoke feelings of warmth and coziness in a glass.
With so many possible ingredients, there is lots more fun to be had when experimenting with bubbly cocktails for cooler weather. Cruz says the options are only as limited as the imagination and experimentation with other drinks can yield some delicious results.
“We love to use cider, not just for the flavor but for the color, and that helps make the spritzes not only taste like winter but also appear visually appealing for the season,” she says. “We also experiment with mulled wine — and ginger beer is, of course, another go-to.” Cruz describes her favorite winter spritz: a pomegranate-flavored concoction built with white wine, pomegranate juice, sage and club soda, in the same ratios as in a traditional spritz. “Another favorite is apple cider, ginger beer and Moscato — simple and sweet,” she adds.
Ready to take your spritz-building skills to the next level? Coleman suggests adding apple or blackberry brandy in place of an amaro or exploring the range? of liqueurs — like Heimat New York — that will add something seasonal and special to the cocktail. He also notes that creating a tea syrup (1 cup of tea with 1 cup of sugar, reduced into a syrup) to add to the drink brings more complexity and depth — exactly the type of cocktail you’ll want to sip on all winter long.
“When I think of winter, I think of tea and again, this can be another way to customize your flavors and make the spritz your own. Sparkling wine, your favorite bitter amaro, a little bit of your preferred tea syrup and some soda,” he says.
One thing to remember, Coleman adds, is that a spritz is only as good as its glassware. He says it’s best to serve these cocktails in an open-mouthed glass so sippers can also have an enhanced aromatic experience. “To piggyback off that, have a nice, aromatic garnish like rosemary or thyme to throw in there. Other than that, keep it simple and play with the flavors that remind you of the season,” he says.