The Spritz, Endless Low Alcohol Options

The Spritz, Endless Low Alcohol Options

Spritzes are my favorite kind of drink - complex flavors, endless options, bubbles, and low alcohol. While they’re an obvious summer sipper, the often herbal flavors work year round. And no, these are not the wine spritzers of the 80’s, these are elegant, full of flavor, and yes, a bit bitter.

The Basic Recipe

2 oz bitter liqueur like Aperol
3-4 oz sparkling wine, prosecco is perfect
2 oz soda water

An Aperol Spritz is one of the most famous, but there are a number of bitter liqueurs you could try instead, many of which still have a similar bright orange or red color, but are often a little less sweet. Personally I love the classic with a few dashes of Cardamom bitters, cardamom and the bitter orange of Aperol are beautiful together.

A Few Liqueurs to Try

Aperol, Campari, and Cappelletti are the most famous bitter aperitivo used in spritzes. They are hard to miss because of their bright orange and red colors, but they do have varying levels of sweetness and bitterness. Aperol is on the sweeter, less bitter side, with Cappelletti in the middle, and Campari on the dry, bitter, and also slightly more alcoholic side. All of them have similar citrus (orange and grapefruit) flavors, paired with bitter herbs and maybe even a little rhubarb, especially in Aperol’s case.

However, when making a spritz almost any bitter aperitivo liqueur will work and there are also a handful of French ones to track down. A personal favorite is Lillet Blanc. It is definitely on the sweeter side, but has a lovely herbal quality that works great with fresh citrus. Try making a Mrs. the next time you’re looking for something to sip while making dinner. Lillet Rose has a lovely rose color and enticing berry flavors.

And a few more you might want to try:

Suze - Herbaceous with a less astringent bitterness than some, this French liqueur is a great place to start.

Salers - a light, very bitter gentian liqueur that works as a great spritz base. 

Punt e Mes - more like a vermouth or amaro this darker liqueur makes a richer spritz.

Cocchi Americano - A more bitter, less sweet version of Lillet Blanc, but just as easy drinking.

Vermouth and Sherry also make for great bases in a spritz and can also be combined quite nicely with the bitter liqueurs to add a little extra depth of flavor. 

And don’t forget Amari, traditionally these bitter herbal Italian liqueurs are served at the end of a meal and sipped as is, but they can make for a darker, richer take on a spritz. Although do check the proof, many Amari come in at 70 proof or over, so if you’re looking for a low alcohol drink, you need to cut back to an ounce or less. Averna is my favorite, it’s on the sweeter side, but super versatile and goes quite well with citrus. 

Other Substitutions

Another way to pack some punch into a spritz is to add just 1 or ½ ounce of full proof spirits like gin or bourbon with a teaspoon or two of flavored simple syrup. Check out this post on growing herbs for cocktails for a quick primer on making herb simple syrups. I’ve also included recipes for two of my favorite syrups - Grapefruit Thyme and Rhubarb Ginger. 

You can also combine full proof spirits and any of the bitter liqueurs above. Try a ¼ ounce of spirit and an ounce of low proof liqueur, vermouth, or sherry. Tequila and dry vermouth make a nice pair as do sherry and bourbon.

And for an extra bitter kick or to balance a sweeter liqueur, our Bitters & Soda can easily stand in for soda or replace the soda and sparkling wine all together for an even lower alcohol drink.

Grapefruit Thyme Syrup

½ cup sugar
½ cup grapefruit juice
4 sprigs fresh thyme

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a bare simmer cook at least till sugar is dissolved, but I like to simmer beyond that for another 10-15 minutes to get lots of thyme flavor. 

Remove from heat and pull out sprigs of thyme, you may want to strain if any leaves fall off. Cool before using. You can store syrup in a sealed container in the fridge for up to a month. 

Rhubarb Ginger Syrup
(You can only make this in the spring when rhubarb is in season, unless you’re lucky enough to find frozen rhubarb in a store near you.)

2-3 stalks of rhubarb
3-4 inch piece of ginger
1-2 cups water
~1 cup of sugar

Cut the rhubarb into 1 inch pieces and the ginger into ½ inch slices. Place in a small pot and barely cover with water. Cook over medium heat until the rhubarb turns to mush and the ginger has infused its flavor. About 15 minutes should do it, but taste and if you want more ginger you can simmer longer. 

Strain off liquid through a mesh strainer, you should have about a cup of liquid, but it’s fine to work with whatever amount you get. Discard rhubarb and ginger, then place the liquid back in the empty saucepan and add an equal amount of sugar, about a cup if you got the expected yield. Cook over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Cool before using and store remaining syrup in a sealed container in the fridge for up to a month. 

A Few of My Favorite Spritzes

Vermouth Spritz

A simple, tasty, aperitif that is technically not a spritz, but worth telling you about anyway. Pour 2 oz of vermouth and 4 oz Bitters & Soda into a wine glass, add ice and enjoy. I love sweet vermouth with Orange Bitters & Soda and dry vermouth with Grapefruit Bitters & Soda

Italian Housewife

6 oz The Bitter Housewife Bitters & Soda
1 oz Averna

Fill a tumbler with ice, pour in Averna and Bitters & Soda, give a gentle swirl. Garnish with a twist of orange or grapefruit.

Negroni Sbagliato

1 oz Campari
1 oz sweet vermouth
3 oz prosecco
4-6 dashes The Bitter Housewife Orange Bitters

Combine all ingredients in a rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with a slice of orange.

Italian Mimosa

1 oz Aperol
1.5 oz grapefruit juice
2 oz prosecco
2 oz soda water
4-6 dashes The Bitter Housewife Grapefruit Bitters

Combine all ingredients, except soda, in a collins glass, and stir gently to mix. Then fill the glass with ice, top with soda water and garnish with a twist of grapefruit. 

Grapefruit Spritz

2 oz Dolin Dry Vermouth
1/2 oz grapefruit-thyme syrup (see recipe above)
4 oz soda water⁠
4-6 dashes The Bitter Housewife Grapefruit Bitters⁠

Mix vermouth, syrup, and bitters together in a collins glass. Add ice, top with soda, and give one more gentle stir. Garnish with fresh grapefruit, a sprig of thyme, or both.⁠

Happy spritzing!

You can also check out our recipe section for more low alcohol, no alcohol, and full alcohol drinks.

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